Category Archives: Faith

Nature

 

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It’s been quite some time since I have written on here. I apologize for the silence, but it has been a busy few months. It’s been two and a half months since I moved overseas and began a new life in Prague, Czech Republic as a missionary.

On this beautiful day, after completing a language test I have been studying for all week, I knew I needed to get outside. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and it is 19 degrees Celsius. I decided it was time to do some more exploring in my neighbourhood.

In my attempt to find a place known as the Prosek Rocks (my neighbourhood is called Prosek), which I did find, I also found a wonderful walking trail that is engulfed in trees and nature, that feels like a little peace of heaven in the middle of a busy, metropolitan city.

Those who know me well know how much I love nature. It’s where I feel closest to God. Going for a walk on a trail or in a park energizes me, refreshes me, and brings me a sense of peace. I enjoy my solitude and love having quiet time surrounded by creation.

Usually when I walk alone, I like to listen to music, but after I left my home today I realized I had forgotten my headphones. I like having music on walks because it blocks out all the other noise and helps me relax. I was disappointed I couldn’t enjoy it on my walk today, especially as I headed down a busy street toward the trail I would soon discover.

As I was walking on the path, surrounded by trees that arched over my head like a bridge, I began to notice the sound of the birds chirping around me. Then I tuned in to the sound of the leaves blowing in the wind. I realized I was not without music. God was providing the music of nature to accompany me on my walk.

And as I walked, I could feel stress sliding right out of my body.

The last couple of months have been amazing, but also challenging in ways I didn’t imagine. I’m in a place where I don’t know all the rules and norms of society. I can’t understand 99% of what is being said around me. I can’t read the majority of the signs or understand directions in a city where streets are not labelled on every corner or intersection.

I also can’t understand the song of the birds, but I can recognize it’s beauty.

You don’t always have to understand something to appreciate it. I may not  understand what someone next to me on the metro is saying, but I can respect and appreciate the fact that they offer their seat to an elderly person or pregnant woman.

I don’t have to know or understand every detail of this country’s culture and history to recognize the pride, beauty, strength and courage in the people of Czech.

It comes down to trust.

Trust is not something that comes easily to me. It takes time for me to completely trust people and be vulnerable with them. That has been one of my biggest struggles since arriving here – those that I have built deep, trusting relationships with are thousands of miles away. I want to create relationships like that here, but it takes time.

So what do I do on a bad day when I need a shoulder to cry on?

I trust God. I turn to Him.

I have experienced the excitement of meeting new people and making friends in my new home. But there have been moments when I’ve missed my friends and family back in Canada so much that it physically hurts. So what do I do?

I trust God.

I trust that He brought me here because this is where I am supposed to be. I trust that He has a purpose for my life here. I trust that He is going to provide those deep relationships I am desiring.

And it’s on days that I go for walks and experience nature that I am reminded that He has a plan for each of us. Just as He planned every piece of Creation, He has an intricate plan for each and every one of His children.

I have heard people say that they like being in nature because it’s getting away from everything and enjoying “the simple things”. But if you pay attention to anything in nature, you quickly realize there is nothing simple about it. From the bark of a tree, to the shape and size of a leaf, to the petals of a flower, the detail and beauty of each little thing is exquisite.

And if God put that much detail into a tiny flower petal or blade of glass, think about the incredible detail He has put into the plan for each of our lives. He loves us so much that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He sees every second of our lives, and He yearns for us to know Him.

And that is exactly why I am here in the Czech Republic.

It’s unacceptable to me that someone could see the detail in the bark of a tree and not know the love and care that God put into creating it.

It’s heartbreaking that people do not know the magnificent and unfathomable love that God put into creating them, and continues to pour out to them every single day.

The beauty and peace of nature is an example of the beauty and peace of God and His unlimited love.

And it is a reminder to all of us who follow Him, that we must share His love.

 

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Eyes on Jesus

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We live in a complicated, broken world. There is so much hurt, so much anger, so much confusion, so much conflict. It’s a world that is suffering and struggling.

Each day I wake up and make intentional choices. I choose to be positive. I choose to treat people well. I choose to smile. I choose to love.

But life continually throws unexpected curves. This chaotic world will constantly try to make us fall.

We can choose to be kind, but some will still be unkind to us.

We can act in love, and may receive hate in return.

We can take risks, and sometimes we will fail miserably.

We can put ourselves out there, and may end up broken hearted.

We can trust people, and they could betray us.

We can do what is right, and others respond with what is wrong.

We can open ourselves up, and someone may shut us down.

This world is hard. It can be dark and cruel. It can make us want to run away and isolate ourselves. It can take away our ability to trust. It can make us give up on love.

In my life, one thing I have learned and practiced – through all of the noise, the stress, the chaos, the heartbreak, the missteps – as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, everything is going to be ok.

With my focus on my Saviour, He shows me how the good triumphs over the bad. He blinds me to the negativity and shines a light on the positive. He deafens my ears to the noise, and blares the kindness. He guards my heart from the hate, and softens it to the love.

We can choose to be kind in the face of unkindness if our eyes are on Jesus.

We can act in genuine love and know that the love of Jesus conquers all hate.

We can take risks and have the opportunity to succeed beyond our wildness dreams, or experience something amazing that we never thought possible.

We can trust people and forgive any betrayal because we know Jesus died so we could be forgiven.

We can do what is right, no matter the response, for we know we honoured our Lord.

We can open ourselves up, and be ok with rejection because with Jesus, we are always accepted.

Yes, this world is hard. Yes, we face many struggles. But with our eyes on Jesus, the joy and love we experience is unfathomable.

With our eyes on Jesus, darkness will become light.

With our eyes on Jesus, hate can transform to love.

With our eyes on Jesus,  hurt is healed.

With our eyes on Jesus, mess can be made beautiful.

So goodbye negativity, I don’t have time for you. I choose to be positive.

I’m sorry hate, but you are not wanted. I serve a God of love.

Farewell betrayal – you can’t have me. I choose forgiveness.

My apologies rejection, but you cannot break me. I belong to Jesus.

And my eyes are on Him.

 

The Places You’ll Go

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Two weeks ago I returned home from Toronto after a week of Pre-Departure training with TEAM, the organization I am partnered with to be a missionary in the Czech Republic. This was a week I had been praying for and anticipating for months. I was looking forward to connecting with friends I’d made at my Missionary Orientation, as well as TEAM staff, making new friends, and taking the next steps in my training.

The week did not disappoint. Although it did go a little faster than I would have liked.

It was cool to have this training in Toronto, a city that love and spent many years in. I had fun introducing my American friends to Tim Hortons, All Dressed chips and poutine. We got a chance to experience the diversity of this amazing city through food, and more food.

I got to meet more amazing people who are giving up their lives to go out in the world and make disciples through church planting, music, sports, and simply building relationships. Soon we will all be spread throughout the world, sharing the gospel and spreading the love of our Lord.

It is so exciting to be a part of.

It’s amazing to hear the stories of everyone and learn how God called them to their respective missionary locations. And it’s inspiring to see so many walking in obedience to God. He has called everyone to a different place – whether it be Japan, France, Guatemala, Mexico, Africa, Spain, Asia – and He has called us each for a specific purpose. To further His Kingdom.

I was (and still am) humbled and honoured to be among these incredible people.

I know when I am on the field, and I face times of struggle and trial, these will be the people I reach out to. And I pray they will reach out to me in their times of need.

Even though we only spent that short time together, we are forever connected as we each set out to fulfill God’s mission in our lives.

All of us will experience things that can only be understood by others who have been in the mission field.

All of us are giving up everything we know, and everything that is comfortable, to share the love of Jesus.

And while our individual struggles may differ depending on the country we’re going to, whether we’re single or married, and what our specific ministry will be, there are common challenges we are all sure to experience.

In our training we talked a lot about cultural values and cultural intelligence. We talked about personal bias and how easy it can be for us to be judgemental when faced with something different. We’ll each face difficulties in language learning, adjusting to cultural norms in our new homes, and dealing with homesickness.

But as long as we know we are fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives, and we trust His path instead of trying to find our own, we will be fine.

We will all commit a cultural faux pas at some point. And we’ll have embarrassing and frustrating stories to share regarding language learning. We’ll have days full of tears where we’re desperate to return home. And we’ll have moments of satisfaction when we can finally order a coffee properly in our host country’s language.

And there will be moments of pure joy – that moment when someone we’ve been building a relationship with, someone who previously didn’t know or care to know Jesus, declares that they believe.

In that moment, all of the cultural mistakes, the frustrations of language learning, and the tears of homesickness, will be worth it.

That’s what we are doing this for.

We are here for God. For His glory. To build His Kingdom.

Throughout the last 8 months of this process – through the highs and lows of fundraising and sharing my calling – I have asked God many times, “Why me?”

I’m not a pastor or a teacher. I’m not a counsellor. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’ve done things I’m ashamed of. I’m overly sensitive and take things too personally. I’m not great in large groups. I can be anti-social. Sometimes, I have a temper.

I am imperfect.

I am so very flawed.

I am also saved.

I am forgiven.

I am loved.

And I want everyone else to know that they are too.

And that is why me.

 

 

Joys and Challenges

DesignI haven’t written on here in a while. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind as I continue to move forward as a Missionary Appointee of TEAM. There have been lots of ups and downs as I prepare to move to the other side of the world to do God’s work. As my time to move to the Czech Republic gets closer each day, my excitement for this journey increases, as I also recognize, and prepare myself for, leaving behind everything I know.

The joys that have come out of this process have been too many to count. Number one is, without a doubt, the chance to share God’s incredible love and power through what He is doing in my life.

My life has changed drastically over the last decade – from the girl the who spent days in bed due to depression, and would, at times, stand at her front door for hours because her anxiety wouldn’t allow her to open it and walk through – to the woman who is on fire for Jesus and is being sent half way across the world to share the gospel. And I take zero credit for this transformation.

I can tell you: Nothing is impossible with God. God is GOOD!

God took the broken mess that I was and transformed me from the inside out.

How do I thank Him for that?

One way to honour His grace and mercy in my life is to obey Him. So when He said, “I want you to go to the Czech Republic as a full time missionary”, I said “Ok.”

And here I am, almost a year later since He first called me to this.

Another incredible joy has been the people I have gotten to meet and connect with as I have engaged in support raising and training.

My fellow missionaries, whom I met at Missionary Orientation, who have become friends and family, and who I am cheering on as they all prepare to go to their respective countries.

The staff at TEAM, who have been unbelievably supportive and available at all times for any needs, questions or care.

I have had the privilege of meeting new people within my church community as I share God’s calling on my life at small groups, ministry groups, and during a Sunday morning sermon.

I have been able to meet with people within my community who have a connection to the Czech Republic, such as a Kingsville pastor who spent many years in ministry in Prague. He has shared his knowledge of Czech, the people and the needs that are there, as well as offered advice on living there, and connected me with people who currently reside in and around Prague.

Yes, God is good.

I have been blown away by the generosity of people throughout the first 3+ months of support raising. There are so many who have partnered with me because they believe in what God has called me to. There are people I have never met who have become monthly partners or one time donors because they heard me speak at church or heard about me through my friends or family.

Yes, God is good.

But I am not going to pretend these past few months have not had challenges. Support raising has been steady, but it has also been more difficult than I expected. In the past I have only done short term trips, where I needed a specific amount of money (usually $2000-3500), and support raising for ongoing monthly partners is quite different.

I am also very good at getting in my own way. I am still mastering the art of patience, and still learning to let go of control. Daily I need to remind myself that I am NOT in control. God has this – He started it and He is going to provide. It’s not about me.

Hopefully one day I’ll get it. Until then, I will continue to remind myself.

I am also starting to think about things that I am leaving behind. I am trying to process as much as I can now, and start the greiving process, in the hopes that it will help when I actually leave.

I am facing the fact that I won’t be here for my nephew’s 5th birthday or my niece’s 7th. I won’t be here when my other nephew graduates middle school, or when my older niece turns 16.

There will be many family gatherings without me. I won’t be able to grab dinner with my parents, or take my sister’s kids to the movies. Friends will get married and have babies, and start new jobs, and I’ll watch from afar.

It’s going to be challenging. There will be times of struggle.

But I am not going to change my mind about going.

I still have no fear about moving to the other side of the world.

I am not going to slow this process down for a minute.

Why?

Because God said “go”. He is making a long time dream of mine real.

He is the one who brought me out of darkness, and changed me from the inside out.

He is the one who promised to never leave me.

He is the reason I need to go to the Czech Republic because His unending love is so amazing and so powerful that I have to share it with the Czech people.

Wherever He leads, I will follow.

Because He is the one who saved me.

So I will embrace all of the joys and all of the challenges.

I will miss the family gatherings and birthdays and celebrations that happen while I am gone. I will miss the weddings and babies and graduations.

Because it’s not about me.

There are people suffering because they don’t know God. There are people without hope because they haven’t opened their hearts to His love.

How can I stay in my comfortable life when He asks me to go?

Everyone has a calling in life, a purpose He has given you.

Mine is to go out into the world and make disciples.

But I am not doing it alone. Everyone who has partnered with me in prayer and monthly or one time givings is going with me. All of my loved ones are going with me. And most importantly, God is going with me.

If He is for me, who can’t stand against me?

I invite you to check out my profile page on TEAM. And if you are interested in supporting my missions, you can click on ‘Give Now’.

https://team.org/about/profile/1638

 

 

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

 

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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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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Home Run

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Those who know me well know I am a huge fan of baseball. When the season starts in April, I activate the MLB app on my phone and I am checking out stats, getting updates and watching my team play as much as I can.

My team is the Toronto Blue Jays. I have been a fan for many years, and I have a deep love for the only Canadian baseball team. I grew up watching baseball with my dad, and a decade of living in Toronto solidified my support of the Jays. I often laugh about how while most young girls in the early 90s had posters of New Kids on the Block on their bedroom walls, I had posters of Joe Carter. He was my pre-teen celebrity crush.

Yesterday I was watching my Jays as they began a series in Texas against the Rangers. The Jays and the Rangers have a history with some animosity; there was the infamous bat flip of Jose Bautista, and of course the physical altercation between Bautista and the Rangers’ Rougned Odor.

Rangers fans remain quite hostile toward Bautista, and as usual, he was greeted with “boos” each time he stepped into the batter’s box last night.

As the boos rained down from the surrounding stands, the Blue Jay commentators joked that they shouldn’t waste their time with the boos because that makes Jose a better hitter. The hostility actually works against the Rangers fans because it pumps Bautista up; he has the tendency to rise above it, take the challenge and show ’em what he can do. And he did that again last night with a home run.

Personally, I don’t think it’s right to ever boo someone. It’s ok to cheer for whoever you choose, but there is no need to openly put someone down through booing. I understand it is a way for fans at sporting events to express their disapproval, but I can’t support booing an individual simply because you don’t like him (or her).

As I was waiting for a staff meeting to start today, I was thinking about my dislike of “booing”, and of how Jose Bautista responded in a positive way to a negative action. Those thoughts led me to think about Jesus and how he would respond when his enemies would “boo” him.

In the times of Jesus, the Pharisees were not “fans” of him despite his many followers. They talked behind his back, they tried to trick him and trap him with certain questions. They mocked him and plotted against him. They turned others against him.

The Pharisees were “booing” Jesus. They didn’t like him. And they tried everything they could to “throw him off of his game”.

Yet, every time the Pharisees tried to beat him, Jesus came back swinging. He stood stronger. He hit the ball harder. He refused to back down.

He continued his ministry day after day, never losing sight of his position.

They tried to strike him out. They tried to shut him down. They tried to tell him the “rules”. But he wasn’t interested in playing their game.

Jesus had a much more important mission. And he never lost focus. He never took his eye off the ball.

Jesus hit home run after home run despite the boos of those around him. He didn’t get upset over the cheaters. He didn’t give in to the liars.

Jesus played his own game.

His game was a game of love, passion, grace, mercy and peace. He was leading people to the greatest win imaginable.

And just when it looked like his opponents had taken the lead, when it looked like the game was lost, Jesus hit the ultimate grand slam.

He won the game for all of us.

He showed us we can win in love. We can hit a home run despite those who are booing us.

Because He did it first.

He loved first.