When God Calls

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I started this blog over 4 years ago. My original intention was to write about my struggle with mental illness and how I stay happy and healthy despite my disease. I called it Experience Each Day because I wanted to highlight the importance of living each day to the best of our abilities. It is also a reminder not just to live each day, but to experience each day, and embrace all that we encounter, both good and bad.

The blog has evolved and changed over the years to become more than about living with depression. It’s been about life lessons, hope, faith, joy, passion and what really matters in this crazy world. But experiencing each day is still the substance of each post.

In the last couple of months I’ve been writing about my journey into missions. I am moving to the Czech Republic to be a full time missionary.

This was not something that was on my radar a year ago.

I’ve had a heart for missions for many years, and always hoped I would one day do it full time, but of all the places I imagined going, the Czech Republic never crossed my mind. I didn’t even know there was a need there until recent years.

Then God set out steps to get me there on a short term mission last summer. And it was there He revealed His calling for me. The Czech Republic is where He wants me.

So I said  “ok.”

I immediately began the application process with TEAM (www.team.org), and haven’t looked back since.

Once I was accepted and began sharing what I was doing, many people told me I was brave.

Am I brave?

No, I don’t think I am.

I’m obedient to God’s calling, not brave.

Brave is the person who faces a cancer diagnosis with hope and faith. Brave is the woman who testifies against the one who sexually assaulted her. Brave are the students who refuse to back down against the fight for gun control.

No, I’m not brave. I’m going to a beautiful and safe country where I get to tell people about the love of Jesus.

I am blessed.

Something else I’ve heard a lot since I began this journey, “You must be nervous.”

No, not really.

This has been orchestrated and controlled by God from the beginning. Why would I be nervous?

To this people say, “But you’re going all alone – that must be hard.”

I’m not going alone.

I am in the process of building a team who will be supporting me throughout this adventure. I am going to work with other missionaries who are already in Czech. TEAM, the organization sending me, has provided enormous support in training, mentors, advice, direction, prayer and preparation for my transition.

And I’ve got this incredible group of people that I met at my Missionary Orientation, all of whom are going out into the world to share the love of Jesus. It’s amazing that this group of strangers from all over North America came together for one week and instantly felt connected because we each had a calling to be missionaries. Now we get to support each other, pray for each other and cheer each other on as we each follow the path laid out for us.

I am definitely not doing this alone.

And even if I didn’t have all that I’ve mentioned, I still would not be alone. This is the road God chose for me and He will travel it with me.

When God calls us, He is calling us to join Him. He is inviting us to experience His special purpose for our lives. And He’s going to walk with us the whole way.

See, I’m not brave. I’m not nervous. I’m not alone.

I’m blessed.

God called me to do this.

Why me? That is the question.

I’m not special. I’m not a pastor or a teacher. I can’t easily get up in front of a crowd and give an epic speech. I’m not gifted at hospitality or making friends quickly. I’m no good at small talk and don’t do well in large groups.

I don’t have any spectacular talents. There is nothing that makes me more qualified to do this over someone else. In fact, I am certain there are many many many others that would be better to do this than me.

But God called me and I am choosing to listen. I am choosing to obey. Because if He is calling me, then He will equip me with all I need to succeed.

While I may not be a pastor or a teacher, and I may not be the life of the party or the most popular person in the room, I do know how to love fiercely. I am a good listener, a great encourager, and a loyal friend. I am caring, kind and fun. Some even think I’m funny.

And more than anything I want to share the unbreakable joy and ever-lasting peace I have because Jesus loved me enough to die for me.

And that is enough.

He is enough.

Again I think back to when I first started this blog. It was something God asked me to do. He called me to be a voice for those suffering from mental illness.

Now He calls me to be a missionary.

When God calls, I answer.

What an incredible gift He has given me, to go to the Czech Republic to bring more people to Him. And if He is for me, who can stand against me?

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…Matthew 28:19

 

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The Big Ask

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I have been home from Missionary Orientation for just over a week, and I have spent my spare time getting prepared for the next steps in this journey. Today I spent my afternoon completing my timeline, making a list of contacts and working on some marketing pieces.

I briefly talked to a friend and told her about my day and she’s asked how I was feeling about everything. My honest answer was “I’m a little overwhelmed.” She was incredibly encouraging telling me it was all going to be worth it and that “I’ve got this”. In that moment I realized, no, I don’t have this, but God does.

And that’s all that matters.

God has gone before me and knows exactly how this will play out. He knows who will support me, how long the fundraising will take, and when I will move to the Czech Republic to begin my mission work.

God is using this process as an opportunity for me to grow. Grow in patience, in faith, and in something I find unbelievably challenging:

The Big Ask.

I am not good at asking for help or support. I love to give help and support to others, but asking for it for myself is intimidating.

This may come from messages I received as a child where I was told not to be a burden to others. It may come from a fierce independence I developed at a young age when I felt like I had no one to depend on. And it may very well come from pride.

God is challenging me to humble myself in order to seek the support I need. He is stretching me in ways like never before. And I am grateful.

In the Bible, when Jesus sends his disciples out to share the message, He tells them not to bring food or extra clothing. He advises them to search out meals and lodging from people in whatever town they are in.

If Jesus and His disciples can humble themselves to ask others to provide for their needs, why can’t I?

Exactly. Why can’t I?

The answer is that I can. God will provide the support that I need. He will bring people forward who believe in my missionary work and want to partner with me.

But he needs me to do the work too.

He needs me to overcome my fears and my pride, and ask.

I need to remember that although I am asking for financial support for my ministry and living expenses in the Czech Republic, it is not about me. I have been called to the Czech Republic, a country where 90% of the people are atheist, to spread the gospel. I have been called to “go out and make disciples of all nations…” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19.

So when my fears and insecurities and pride try to get in the way, I need to remember that I am doing this for Him and His kingdom.

As I move through this process, I recognize that it is not just about getting people to give me their money. It’s about building relationships and partnerships. It’s about praying for one another and encouraging one another. It’s about spreading the love of our Lord together.

I may be the only one physically moving to the Czech Republic, but I am not going alone.

As I reflect on all of these things, I realize that ‘The Big Ask’, when done for Jesus, is not so big.

If He is for us, who can stand against us?

 

If you’d like to check out my missionary profile, visit https://www.teamcanada.org/about/profile/1638

Feel free to contact me anytime to find out more about what I am doing, or to partner with me.

 

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It’s Worth It

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Last week I was in North Carolina for my missionary orientation for TEAM. As most people in my life know, I will be moving to the Czech Republic to work as a church planter and to teach English.

Orientation was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much and I am so grateful to the TEAM staff for all of the work, effort and care that goes into the training and into each individual preparing to go out into the field. My brain is still on overload from all of the information, but I feel confident and equipped to take the next steps in this journey.

I also had the honour of meeting and getting to know some incredible people. I wish there had been more time to talk to everyone and hear their stories, and learn about what they are going to do. It was inspiring to see so many like-minded people coming together, and to share an instant connection because we’re all going out into the world to spread the gospel.

I could go on and on about how wonderful the experience was, but I want to focus on something that really stood out for me. One of the TEAM staff members shared about his years of working in missions, and all the stress and joy and struggle and excitement that goes with it. He warned all of us that being in the missions field will often mean having to give up our lives. He talked about how hard it is to leave family and friends, comfort zones, and ministries, and how the unexpected will happen and things will often be beyond on our control.

And he finished this with 3 simple words. “It’s worth it.”

Powerful.

I began to reflect on my own journey to be a full time missionary up to this point. It has happened fast, and somewhat unexpectedly, but it has been very God driven from the beginning.

A year ago I was not thinking about moving to the Czech Republic to be a missionary. Now I look back and see how God placed each stepping stone on my path to get me here.

I completed the lengthy and overwhelming application process in 4 months, and never once had any fears or doubts about what I was doing.

Because God told me to do it.

Everything has simply fallen into place since the very beginning. Because it has all come directly from God.

This has made me reflect back on various times in my life – through struggles, joy, frustration, laughter, and stress; in the times and events where I was following God and surrendering to Him, it was all worth it, both the good and the bad.

In the times where I tried to control things and step ahead of God’s plan, the outcome was never worth it. I was often left with pain or regret.

As I look back over the years, I see how God has led me here. Even when I ignored Him or pushed Him away, He has always found a way to steer me back to His purpose. And His purpose has always been worth it.

Missions has been a passion of mine for many years, but I look at my journey and where I am now, and recognize how perfect God’s timing is.

I wasn’t ready for this 5 years ago or even 3 years ago. I was still dealing with too many struggles, too many unhealed wounds, too many fears. It was something I wanted, but I was not equipped for. And God knew that.

God placed me on a journey to grow spiritually, emotionally and mentally, so that He could bring me here to this moment. He planned it all so perfectly.

So I could be ready.

And all of the time it took to get me, all of the stress and struggles and uncertainties, it was all worth it.

Anything we do for God and with God is worth it.

It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and try to push our own agenda on Him. As humans, we are generally not good with the unknown, and we are often not very patient. We want the answers here and now.

It’s important to remember that it’s not about our timeline – it’s about His.

The waiting and the unknown are worth it if we are following His will.

A few years ago I finally, truly surrendered control of my life to God. And it has been worth it ever since.

In surrendering, I finally found freedom.

I found peace.

I found joy.

I found a deep, deep faith.

I discovered how truly powerful, amazing and breath-taking God’s love for me is.

And it is so worth it.

 

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What I’ll Miss the Most

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It’s been nearly 4 weeks since I found out I’ve been appointed a missionary to the Czech Republic. Since then I have been busy telling friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone else who will listen! I’ve signed up for my orientation and training which is from February 10 to 16 in North Carolina (one week away!), and I have been answering questions as best I can without having a lot of information just yet.

It’s been an exciting few weeks.

As my excitement continues to grow, and I wonder what God has in store for me, the realization of what I am leaving behind has begun to sink in.

Don’t misread this – I am not having any doubts or second thoughts. The more I think about this journey I am on, the more I see how right it is for me, and how God’s hand has been directing it from the beginning.

But it would not be healthy if I didn’t acknowledge and prepare myself for the things I am going to miss here.

Today I went to my nephew’s birthday party. He turns 4 on Wednesday, and it hit me that this may be the last birthday party of his that I attend for a number of years.

Those who know me well know that I adore my nieces and nephews. They mean the world to me, and because I do not have kids of my own, they are my kids. I love that I am very involved in their lives. I love that I get to pick them up from school, and make them dinner, and be a part of their daily norms.

And I know that, in order to follow the path God has laid out for me, I have say goodbye to seeing them often. And that is what I’ll miss the most.

I’ll miss not being here for birthdays and holidays.

I’ll miss picking them up from school.

I’ll miss giving my oldest niece clothes I’ve hardly worn, and books I think she’ll enjoy.

I’ll miss teasing my oldest nephew, and trying to give him big hugs when I know he doesn’t like hugs.

I’ll miss going my young niece’s ballet class to watch her dance.

I’ll miss the way my young nephew runs to give me a hug when he sees me coming.

I will miss key events in their lives.

I will miss watching them grow, and seeing them discover something new.

I will miss them more than I can express.

I am grateful to be a part of time where it is easy to connect despite distance. I am grateful for Skype, FaceTime, email, texting, and all the other ways I can still be a part of their lives.

No, it’s not the same as being here, but it is something.

And no matter where I am in the world, I will ensure my nieces and nephews know how much I love them. That I can promise.

As I move forward on this new path, and get excited about the adventures ahead, I will also recognize and grieve what I am going to miss.

And I plan to cherish each moment I have with my nieces and nephews, my parents, my sister, my extended family, my friends, and my church family, up to the moment I step on the plane.

Although I’ll miss so much here and it hurts my heart to move so far from everyone I know and love, I am confident in my decision to move to the Czech Republic for mission work.

I want to obey God and His calling for me.

I want to do His will.

And I want to share this journey with everyone I love.

And I hope to have lots of visitors! 😊

 

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When Dreams Come True

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If you ever had a dream come true, you likely know the exact day and time it happened. It’s logged in your memory, impossible to forget.

A dream of mine came true last Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 5:03pm. That is when I saw the email. Technically the email had been sent the night before and therefore my dream came true at that point, but I didn’t see it until the aforementioned moment above. So it was 5:03pm on a Tuesday evening when the dream became reality.

I had been accepted.

I should probably start at the beginning. I’ve wanted to share this for over 5 months, but felt it was best to hold back until it was confirmed. The last thing I wanted to do was explain to everyone if I didn’t get approved.

In July, I went on a short term mission trip (12 days) to the Czech Republic. I have been passionate about missions for a little more than a decade. Before the Czech Republic, I was part of 5 previous short term missions.

I first dipped my toe in the missions pool when I was 16; I joined a youth group from a church I didn’t attend on a trip to Pennsylvania, where we spent a week painting and repairing houses for those who couldn’t afford to do it themselves.

The next mission trip I participated in wasn’t until I was 26 years, when I went to Romania for 2 weeks to work with orphans. After that experience,  I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I continued to do short term mission trips, but in the back of my mind, and deep in my heart, I imagined the day when I would be a full time missionary.

I had no idea what that would like, nor did I know where I wanted to go.

Until July 2017.

Nearing the end of the team’s time in Czech Republic, I started to realize that I didn’t want the mission to end. I wasn’t ready to return to Canada. And as I sat on a bench in the mountains of this beautiful country, God whispered to me, “Don’t worry. You’re coming back.”

His voice was so clear that I was tempted to turn around to see if someone was standing behind me.

In the Czech Republic, we were working with a family who have been missionaries there for over 20 years. That night I looked up the organization they are partnered with, TEAM, to see what opportunities there were.

I prayed for a while that night as God’s message spun around my mind. By the next morning, I not only felt God telling me I’d be returning, but I realized the next time I would be there, I would be staying for a long time.

Returning to Canada, I had no doubt in my mind. However, before moving forward, I talked to my parents, as well as the executive pastor (my boss) and the senior pastor at my church/work. Their support and encouragement affirmed the message God had given me.

A few days later, on the TEAM website, I put in a request for application.

The application process was long and intense. They were forms to fill out, Biblical and belief questions to answer, references needed, a medical exam, blood work, an X-Ray, a 5 hour assessment test, and interviews to go through. I was warned the application process takes most people 6 months to a year to complete.

I did it in 4.5 months.

My direction was clear. I knew what I wanted. I knew where I was supposed to go.

Then came the waiting.

And on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 5:03pm, I got my answer. I was officially appointed as a TEAM missionary.

I was still at work when I saw the email. My co-worker was just exiting her office to leave for the day, and I ran up to her, tears already falling, and shoved my phone her face.

“Look! I got accepted!”

She held me as I cried and laughed.

Next I interrupted a meeting between the senior pastor and his assistant, who is my closest friend at work. Still crying, I shared my exciting news.

Then I bolted out of the office for my sister’s house, where my parents were watching my niece and nephew. I alternated between laughing and crying throughout the 10 minute drive.

When I burst through the door, and both my parents came into view, I again shared my news. More laughter and tears ensued, along with hugs.

As I approach the week mark of having been accepted, I think the news is only now settling in. The first few days were emotional and overwhelming.

Now it feels real.

I have been appointed as a missionary, a dream I’ve had for more than 10 years.

I am officially moving to the Czech Republic at some point in the future.

God is good.

Of course the journey has only begun, and a lot needs to happen before I step on a plane. But I am so ready for what lies ahead – all of the emotions, all of the challenges, all of the joys, all of the struggles.

I know this is what I am supposed to do.

I know this is where God wants me.

I will keep writing about this experience as things move forward. I hope you’ll keep reading.

 

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2017

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2017 was a bit of whirlwind for me. I’m sitting here on the first day of 2018 and wondering how the past year went by so fast.

2017 started with me living in a small, poorly constructed one bedroom house that didn’t have enough heat to allow me to survive the winter without shivering constantly. Aside from gifting me with an ice cold body, this place featured a large hole in the porch directly outside the front door, pipes that would freeze for days and therefore not drain water or allow me to flush the toilet, and a small furry friend that I discovered in my dog’s bag of food.

But at the time, it was all I could afford.

It’s not a secret that I have struggled to find my place since returning to Essex County nearly 5 years ago. I moved from job to job, some good, some not, trying to find a good fit, and never getting paid enough to really survive on my own.

In January, I was working at a job that was unable to follow through on things that had been promised to me, such as a raise, benefits and full time hours.

However, less than a month into 2017, things started to change, and now 2017 has turned out to be one of my best, most memorable years yet.

It was not a perfect year, but we all know that perfect doesn’t exist. The year included some disappointments (mainly, the difficult choice of re-homing my dog, who I loved deeply), but it also included the learning (in some cases re-learning) of important life lessons, and the re-discovery of my biggest passions.

First, I learned never to say ‘never’.

The initial good thing that happened in 2017 was that I got a new job. It was unexpected, and not something I had sought out. They approached me and asked me to apply. The position was for an Office Administrator. The role was perfect for me – I love admin and I’m good at it. It was precisely the type of position I had been seeking since I left Toronto.

But there was a massive red flag waving in my face. The job was at a church…

I had nothing against this church – it’s a fantastic church that I had attended as a teenager and continued to attend when I was visiting from Toronto. I already knew some of the staff well, and all are fantastic people. My faith was stronger than ever and my desire was to serve God in all ways.

But after my last experience working for a church, I swore I would never work for a church again. It’s not that it was a completely horrific experience, but it was a difficult experience that left me with some deep wounds; wounds that were still healing.

So I hesitated.

After talks with my parents and lots of prayer, I felt God telling me to apply. So I did.

Which leads me to the next thing I [re]learned in 2017 – letting go and listening.

I was reminded to let go of control and listen to God. I surrendered all my anxieties and concerns to Him, and promised that where He led, I would follow.

So, I was offered the job and I took it. And it was the right choice.

Shortly into the job, I was asked if I would consider joining the mission team that was heading to the Czech Republic in July.

Again, I hesitated. I wanted to go, but I was worried about the timing of it, the financial burden of fundraising, and the amount of vacation time it would eat up for me. I swam in the pool of indecision for weeks before deciding that I would wait for the next mission trip.

Then I began to really listen to what God was saying to me. He told me to go, so I went. Everything fell into place with the team and the trip – we managed to raise almost double what we needed, and the experience was incredible.

The trip re-ignited my passion for missions, and started me on a path to fulfill a dream of doing more mission work in the future.

This year I also re-learned the importance of patience and grace.

I have a tendency to place high expectations on the people around me, especially Christians. And when they don’t behave as I feel they should, my reactions can sometimes be quite harsh.

I am someone who feels things very deeply. I’m sensitive, often over-sensitive, as a result of some things I have experienced. Like many people, I have been deeply hurt over the years and the pain of betrayal has led to trust issues, as well as a thick defensive wall that shoots up the moment I feel someone has not acted in a way that I deem “acceptable”.

However, I was reminded again and again that we are not a perfect people. I’m not and neither are you. And I truly believe that most people in this world are good. When people do or say things that are insensitive or hurtful, most often they are not doing it on purpose. Frequently they do not even realize they may have hurt or angered you, and when they find out they are devastated and deeply sorry.

We are all human, full of flaws and imperfections. But we are also loving, caring, kind and generous. We make mistakes. We don’t always think things through. And we need to show each other grace in times of mishaps.

Finally, I was reminded not to let the negativity of others affect me.

I have worked for years to be a positive person. It does not come naturally to me. In my early twenties, I decided that only I could change my negative perspective of the world to a positive one. So I worked at it. I woke up each day and made a choice to be positive until I started to wake up feeling positive.

My downfall is that I can still easily get sucked into the negativity. If I am around it too much, it creeps onto my body and I wear it like clothes. If I allow it to linger for too long, it seeps beneath my skin, and I start to become the person I don’t want to be.

There were a few times this year where I allowed the negativity of others to dig deep into my being. In some cases, I was trying to help someone, but their negativity was overpowering what I was attempting to do.

These times reminded me that it was ok to extract myself from the situation when it was doing me more harm than good. I felt guilty for removing myself, but I also knew that I was not going to help anyone if I became increasingly negative.

It was a good lesson (again) for me. It made me stronger, and it reminded me of why I am here. I am here to bring light and joy to others, to serve God and pour out His love. I can’t do that under mounds of negativity.

I could go on about things I’ve learned and re-learned this year – the importance of family, being able to stand up for myself, taking chances and being bold, and embracing the good. But this post is probably long enough.

I will say that I am excited for 2018. I look forward to pursuing my passions in mission work, as well as with writing. I am thrilled to embrace new adventures and challenges. And I pray that I can do it with grace and love.

I feel like I woke up in 2017.

Now I’m ready to face 2018 with an open heart and an open mind.

Happy New Year.

 

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He sees me

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It’s very unpleasant to feel under appreciated; to work hard, go above and beyond, and then be met with silence. It’s not simply a slash to the ego, but can become a slash to confidence, as well as the soul, if it is a continuing occurrence.

What’s worse than feeling under appreciated is to feel invisible. It’s not just that your thoughts, work and effort go unnoticed, but they cease to exist in the presence of others.

I’m a quiet person. I don’t need to be the center of attention, and I don’t want a spotlight on me, but like everyone else on this earth, I like my existence to be acknowledged.

I don’t feel invisible on a regular basis. I am very self-aware, and quite confident in who I am and what my abilities are. But even the most confident people can be side-swept occasionally and left wondering how the thing that took them down didn’t even see them.

Like when someone expresses a need and you offer again and again to fill it, and are continually ignored.

Or when you express an idea multiple times which no one acknowledges, then the next person walks in with the exact same suggestion and everyone thinks it’s the best thing they’ve ever heard. Um…was I not speaking out loud?

Or when someone drops a bombshell on you in a group setting, and you wonder how they couldn’t have the courtesy to approach you in private first. I guess you just weren’t important enough for your feelings to even be considered.

In my 34 years I’ve been on the receiving end of many cruel words and actions. Yet, I am still constantly shocked at the ability of one human being to treat another so poorly.

You would think by now I’d be so hardened to inexcusable actions that it wouldn’t affect me; that I would be able to simply brush it off my shoulder and move on.

But I am not able to do that. And I’m grateful.

I’m grateful that my heart is still soft enough that I care when someone hurts me or I see others treated badly. I’m thankful that I value myself and my worth enough to be bothered when someone acts like I don’t exist or I don’t matter.

I am glad that the evil of our world and the pain and suffering of others still affects me deeply. Because if it didn’t I might be the one afflicting that poor treatment on someone else.

I am grateful that I am still aware of my feelings and sensitivities, and able to express them without shame or regret. Because those feelings of hurt and sorrow are another expression of the depth of my love and compassion.

I am happy that my heart has not become cold or surrendered to the cruelty that lurks among us. And I praise God for the strength He gives me to stand against the negativity; the courage He gives me to stand up for myself and for others.

I am incredibly thankful for my God who sees and feels my pain and hurts. He understands the depths of our wounds and the suffering we endure due to the insensitivity and poor treatment of others. And He cries with us.

He has felt such pain and hurt at the hands of His people. He knows what it is like to be ignored and betrayed and under appreciated. He has suffered due to people’s refusal to acknowledge His existence. He has felt invisible too.

In the times we feel let down and forgotten, and when we feel under appreciated and invisible, there is one thing that is constant. One thing we can count on.

He sees us.

God sees us when it seems like no one else does.

God sees us when we feel unnoticed and alone.

God sees us when our trust is broken and our hearts are bleeding.

God sees us even when we don’t see Him.

God sees us in our brokenness, in our sorrow, in our suffering.

God sees us in our joy, our laughter, our love.

God sees us in all of our good and all of our bad.

And He loves us unconditionally.

So, it’s ok when someone else acts like we don’t matter. It’s ok when someone forgets to consider our thoughts and feelings. It’s ok when someone doesn’t appreciate our efforts or hard work. It’s ok when someone else hurts us.

We can handle these moments with grace.

Because God sees us.

To Him, we matter.

To Him, we are precious.

To Him, we are irreplaceable.

With Him, we can extract ourselves from the negativities of this world. With Him we can show mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. In many cases, people don’t mean to or even realize that they have caused pain. So we can show grace.

Because God sees us.

He sees you.

He sees me.

 

Love first.

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The Words We Choose

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I didn’t really like High School. Or Junior High. Or Elementary school. School wasn’t so bad when I started as an innocent 4 year old in Ottawa, but it gradually got worse as I got older. By the time I graduated High School, I absolutely hated it.

Why?

Words.

It’s odd as a writer to say I hated something because of words. I actually love words. What I hated was the words my peers chose to use with each other, and especially with me.

I was born into a world of love. I had amazing parents, an older sister I followed around, and people in my life who protected me. But before I reached the end of my first decade on this earth, I learned how cruel others could be.

Living in the Caribbean at a young age, a minority at a local school, I was exposed to harsh words. I was bullied daily, and the words directed at me cut very deep. I quickly learned that words can destroy. Cruel words uttered more than two decades ago still occasionally taunt me. Sometimes I still hear them when I look in the mirror. The wounds from back then may have healed, but I still carry the scars of the verbal abuse.

As a kid I believed that once I was done school, once I was an adult, I would no longer have to endure bullying and mean words. Of course adults would never say nasty things to each like kids do, right?

Oh, how wrong I was.

I continued to be a victim of ridicule, gossip, and bullying. And as I got older, this caused such anxiety in me that it bordered on paranoia. Anytime I was in public and heard someone laugh, I assumed they were laughing at me. Anytime people spoke in hushed tones, I assumed they were talking negatively about me.

It got so bad that I was afraid to leave my apartment. Some mornings I would stand at my front door for up to an hour trying to find the courage to open it and walk out. Those days I was very late for work, if I made it at all.

Words can destroy.

I am lucky that through counselling and support of family and friends, I overcame my anxiety and paranoia. I learned to find my self-worth in God instead of how others viewed me. I prayed that God would allow me to see myself as He saw me, and I finally began to smile at the person in the mirror.

I learned to love and accept myself as a precious daughter of the Lord. I realized His view of me was the only one that truly mattered, and if He loved and cared for me, then what right did I have not to love and care for myself?

I also realized that God could help me change the things I didn’t like about myself. I had a very negative, cynical view of the world. I had lost faith in love, in people, and in the church. I was easily irritated and had a horrific temper that could explode without warning. I also found that I had developed a mean streak. The years of bullying and verbal abuse had created an ugliness inside me that came out in gossip, judgement, and rude comments.

I didn’t like that side of me. I didn’t want to be that person. So I chose not to be. I began to ask God to let me see others as He saw them. When I wanted to judge someone, I stopped and reminded myself that I had no idea what was happening in their life or what struggles they could be experiencing. When I wanted to express a mean word or cruel statement, I bit my tongue, and reminded myself of all the harsh words used against me and how much damage they had caused. Instead I would ask myself how I could make the situation better instead of worse.

I am not perfect. Sometimes I still give in to anger and judgement. Sometimes I catch myself engaging in gossip. But not nearly as often as I once did. And at least now, I am instantly aware of it and able to repent.

I try very hard to see the good, to choose the good. I wake up every day and choose to be positive, and choose to love first.

Why am I writing about this today?

Because I am still constantly heartbroken at the words people choose to use with each other. I am still in shock by the cruel things said to one another, and the judgement that is so easily placed.

Working at a church, I see so many people worshipping Jesus, and attending workshops and courses on how to be healthy, loving people, but then the sun rises on Monday, and so many of the same people are quick to tear each other down.

Why?

Why do we do this to each other?

Why do we engage in this competition to trash one other?

Children and teens are committing suicide due to endless bullying. People use social media to call others names and tear them to pieces. The president of the most powerful country in the world regularly uses Twitter to call people dumb, pathetic, obnoxious & fat, (among other things).

What’s going on with us?

Why do we allow ourselves to engage in this narrative?

Why do we accept such hateful language?

Yes, words can destroy. The above points to that fact.

But words can also build up. Words can love. Words can heal. Words can encourage.

Words can change the world.

Let’s change the narrative of our world.

Let’s change the words we choose.

Let’s choose love.

 

LOVE FIRST

 

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Love First

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It is hard to be a part of today’s world. There is so much evil, hurt, anger and suffering. I find myself avoiding the daily news because I don’t want to see another story about a parent who has killed their child, or a senior who was brutally beaten while going for a walk, or a gunman who opened fire on a crowd at an event.

Sometimes it’s just too much. We get dragged down by the sadness. The horrendous reality that another human has committed these acts is overwhelming and disturbing. It becomes difficult to sleep at night, and we lay awake praying for those who are suffering, a list that keeps getting longer and longer.

So what is the answer?

Do we avoid all media?

Do we shield our eyes when passing the newspapers in the grocery store?

Do we move to the middle of nowhere and live as a hermit in ignorant bliss?

Is it even possible to block out all of the tragedy?

Unlikely.

In today’s world of technology, all news and information is available within seconds. There’s no avoiding the chaos. And living as a hermit is not the answer.

We may not be able to shut out the trauma around us, but we can do something in response to it.

Often in these horrific events, we are given a glimpse of the goodness in people. We see strangers helping strangers. We see people protecting each other. We see people opening their homes to those in need.

We see love.

And that is what we need in these times of evil actions. We need to respond in love.

Each day, whether there has been a tragic event or not, we need to choose love. That is how we defeat evil. That is how we make our world better.

We need to love first.

We are so quick to judge one another. We are quick to gossip, quick to curse another, quick to anger, quick to inflict pain whether emotionally or physically.

What if instead we were quick to love?

What if instead of judgement, we chose compassion?

What if we responded to rudeness with kindness?

What if instead of cursing the one who cuts us off in traffic, we ask God to bless their day?

What if we choose to love first?

I think our world would become a much better place if we all choose to love first.

It starts with you and me.

Love first.

 

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Travel with Purpose

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I love to travel. I love to explore new places, meet new people and experience different cultures. I love journeying to other countries and learning about their traditions and values. Each place in this world is fantastically unique, filled with beautiful people who each have a story to tell.

I can’t pinpoint where or when I developed my love of travel. I suspect it goes back to my childhood when my family constantly moved around and had to adapt to new surroundings.

The move that impacted me the most was when my dad was transferred to the island of St. Kitts in the Eastern Caribbean. For us, that involved more than simply adapting to new surroundings. We had to adapt to a new culture, a new climate and a completely new way of life.

While there were lots of incredible experiences living in St. Kitts, there were also many experiences that gave me nightmares for years after moving back to Canada. My eyes were too young and innocent to witness the violence and poverty that surrounded me. My mind and soul were too naive to comprehend the intolerance and cruelty I faced regularly.

However, my young self didn’t know that nearly two decades later, these haunting experiences would influence my travel choices in a positive way.

While I have taken some fun and amazing vacations on cruise ships, and to beautiful cities like Boston and Chicago, my travel desires have changed as I have gotten older. Now, they tend to be shaped around more purposeful journeys.

I want to see new places and experience different cultures, but not from a beach-side resort where I am being served a beverage in a coconut shell while sunbathing in a lounge chair. That would be amazing for about two days and then I would be quite bored.

The travel experiences I currently desire are not about me being comfortable and waited on. I don’t simply want to see a new culture, but I want to experience it. I don’t want to just meet new people, I want to know them. At the end of the day, I don’t want to only wash beach sand off my body, but also dirt, sweat, and even some tears.

I want to travel with purpose.

For me, right now that means short term mission and volunteer trips. I want to serve others, learn their stories and share their journeys. I want to travel in teams where we work together and have fun together. I want to learn about how others live, what values they hold dear, and how they came to be who they are. I want to hear their struggles, where they get strength and what makes them happy.

Two weeks ago I returned from a 12 day mission trip to the Czech Republic. Many people wonder why this country is a destination for mission work. They hear Prague and imagine a wealthy tourist area.

It is true that the Czech Republic is not physically poor, but when it comes to spiritual poverty, they are among the poorest. It is regularly described as an atheist country, and this is due to a complicated and difficult history when the people of the country were not allowed to speak about religion, let alone pursue it.

The team that I travelled with was not there to provide food, clothing or any material goods. We were there to bring the love of God, and what an honour it was to be a part of that. During our time there, we saw God at work, opening minds and softening hearts toward him. There were some proclaimed atheists who showed up at church on our final Sunday. God’s presence was everywhere and it was exhilarating.

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The Team

I had the privilege of working with 10 incredible teens, all of whom dug deep into my heart. Two weeks have passed and I miss them terribly. When the time came to return home, I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to stay and continue journey with the beautiful youth I had gotten to know.

Thank goodness for technology and Facebook so I can stay in touch with them.

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The wonderful teens I worked with

This world is full of beautiful people who have struggled, fought for themselves and their families, and survived unbelievable experiences. I have learned so much from those I have met on my travels. They have taught me about faith, strength, endurance, hope, redemption, joy, and most importantly, love. They have shown me what truly matters in this world – love and compassion for one another.

The experiences I have had on mission trips have opened my eyes to my own blind spots. They’ve put my flaws and weaknesses on full display. And they’ve taught me acceptance; acceptance of others and acceptance of myself.

The first mission trip I went on changed me. Each one after that awoke another part of my soul and reminded me of why we are here – to care for one another.

We live in a broken world. The only way we can begin to repair it is together. And to work together, we need to learn about and accept the uniqueness of each culture, country, and person. That doesn’t mean we always have to agree, but it does mean we have to have respect.

For me, that means continuing to travel with purpose, and continuing to learn.

I don’t simply want to see the world – I want to change it for the better. Yes, that is a massive goal, but years ago I laid myself before the Lord and said “Use me”. His response was to provide opportunities for mission and volunteer trips.

I am lucky enough to have the support and ability to continue to take part in these travels. I know it is not something everyone can do, but God has given me a lifestyle that allows it. I am single and child-free so I can jump at the opportunities that come my way.

I hope I can continue to do mission trips throughout my life. I am grateful for those who have supported me in these trips, both financially and spiritually.

I don’t know if I am actually changing the world for the better. I don’t know if I am making any difference at all. But I am trying.

That’s all any of us can do.

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