Category Archives: Life Lessons

The Little Things

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I was getting ready for bed and suddenly felt this uncontrollable urge to write about something that happened today.

My friend, who I met in my Czech language class in the Spring, and I took a break from language review/practice to go for lunch. We went to a restaurant a few minutes from my apartment, and prepared to order.

We had a lovely, young woman as our waitress, and when she approached us, she (of course) spoke to us in Czech. My friend and I ordered our drinks and tried to tell her we needed a few more minutes with the menu. At this point, she switched to English, but I quickly told her we were learning Czech and wanted to practice. She smiled sweetly and switched back to Czech, but made an effort to speak more slowly so we could understand.

Throughout the remaining time at the restaurant this wonderful server treated us with kindness and patience as we fumbled our way through communicating with her in Czech.

Her gentleness and understanding of the fact that we were trying hard to speak in her language has stayed with me all day. I can hardly express how much I appreciated her patience, even though the restaurant was busy and she had many others who needed her service.

If she was frustrated by us, she didn’t show it one bit.

When we made a mistake or said a word incorrectly, there was no judgement.

Her sweet smile never left her face.

After we left, I’m sure she did not give us another thought, but her actions have stayed at the front of my mind all day.

How she treated us may not seem like a big deal to many, especially given that her job is in the service industry, but it meant a lot to me. She made me feel appreciated and valued for attempting to speak only in Czech.

This has not been a regular experience for me; often when I have attempted to speak Czech, the person I am speaking to will switch to English. If they don’t know English, they’ll just use hand gestures. And many times I have sensed their annoyance with me as I stumble through my limited Czech.

My experience today has reminded me of the importance of appreciating the little things.

So often we only focus on the big things – the next adventure, a new experience, going on vacation, the start of a relationship, the big presentation, a visit from a loved one, the wedding day, the birthday celebration.

We spend the time in between ‘the big things’ waiting for, and anticipating the next ‘big thing’.

In doing that, we frequently miss out on the little things that matter just as much as the big things.

The little things like…

Seeing a wooden moose painted with your home country’s flag in a small German town.

When your friend’s 5 year old son wants to sit next to only you.

When you see a beautiful landscape and take a moment to be mesmerized by it.

When you get excited over the appearance of a rainbow in the sky.

When there’s a hammock on the porch of the beautiful cottage you’re staying at for a few days.

I could go on and on…

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Often we can fail to see the beauty in the moments that seem small.

We forget that even the little things need to be celebrated.

We’re so busy planning or praying for that next big thing that we don’t realize how incredible much of the small things are.

A friend of mine writes her blessings in a gratitude journal. It helps her focus on all of the good in her life instead of the negative.

She struggles with anxiety, so it would be easy for her to focus on her trials. Instead she purposely focuses on her blessings and all that she is grateful for.

I used to keep a gratitude journal, and it is something I am going to do again.

I want to focus on all of the positive things, big and small, that God has blessed me with in my life.

I want to remember that every experience, every moment, every word spoken, every action taken matters.

Because we never know how our words or actions may affect someone else.

I am certain that the waitress I had today has no idea what an impact she had on me. I am sure she doesn’t know that she made my day better through her actions. I think she would be surprised to know how much what she did meant to me.

We often have no idea how we can impact people. Something we do that may seem minuscule or ordinary to us may be the difference between a good and a bad day for someone else.

A smile can lift a hurting heart.

Holding a door can straighten burdened shoulders.

Giving up a seat can bring rest to aching legs.

These are all little things.

But they matter so much.

Pay attention to the little things. Find the beauty in them. Find the inspiration in them. Find the joy in them.

Embrace the blessings.

Exude gratitude.

And be the bright spot in someone else’s day.

 

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Being Vulnerable

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Working in ministry, I have a lot of conversations with people that can end up being very deep. One thing I see over and over is the struggle many have with vulnerability, and the fear of being vulnerable.

I get it. Being vulnerable is scary.

I’ve spent years working on being more vulnerable and opening myself up. However, with being vulnerable and more open, comes fear of rejection and judgement. I am at a place in my life where it’s less scary to be vulnerable and honest because I know who I am and I know my worth. Through years of therapy, conversations, reading, writing, and prayer, I’ve become very self-aware, and I’ve learned to genuinely love myself. Everything changed when I began to pray that I would see myself as God sees me; I stopped looking for my value in this world and instead sought out my value in Him.

As I spend time with people and engage in conversations, I see so many who are yearning for a deep connection with another human being, yearning for realness and honesty in relationships, and desperately needing a sincere relationship with God. But their fear is holding them back from truly seeking that thing they so desperately desire. Their fear of being vulnerable, and of facing rejection or judgement keeps them trapped inside their guarded walls.

I understand.

I also fear rejection. I also fear being judged.

Like most, I have been rejected and judged multiple times in my life. And it hurts.

I’ve been judged for my choices.

I’ve been judged for my beliefs.

I’ve been judged for my mental illness.

I’ve been judged for not being married and not having children.

I’ve been judged for my mistakes.

I’ve been judged for being “too good”.

I’ve been judged for being not good enough.

I’ve been judged for being too thin.

I’ve been judged for being too big.

I’ve been judged for what I wear.

I’ve been judged for what I’ve said.

I’ve been judged for what I haven’t said.

The list goes on and on.

It’s painful. It’s painful to be judged. It’s painful to be rejected.

While that pain is often never erased, it can be overcome.

It can be overcome by being accepted.

By being welcomed.

By being loved.

By loving others even if they reject you.

By being honest even if some don’t like what you have to say.

By being vulnerable even though you could get hurt.

By not judging even when others are judging you.

And most importantly by knowing you are forever accepted and unconditionally loved by our Father in heaven.

He will never reject you.

He will always want you.

He will always welcome you.

He will always accept you.

He will always love you with a fierceness that none of us can fully comprehend.

So I encourage you to be vulnerable. Be open. Be honest. Be accepting. Be welcoming. Love. Love as our Lord loves us.

Because even if you are sometimes rejected or judged, that love will overpower the hurt.

And you can feel secure knowing that the Almighty is always there.

When I look back and see all the opportunities I missed because I was afraid of being vulnerable, afraid of being judged, and afraid of being rejected, I am filled with sadness. Pure sadness. Yes, I may have avoided being hurt or embarrassed, but I may have also missed out on meaningful relationships, best friendships, chances to love and be loved, and so much more.

As I have gotten older, and my faith has grown, I have realized that all I want to do is love and care for people. Even if they reject that love and care from me. I want to know people, to connect with people, to be vulnerable, to be open, and to be honest. I want to help others and allow them to help me.

And if I am hurt or judged or rejected, that is ok.

At least I’ll know I did what Jesus asked me to do. I’ll love my neighbour, and I’ll serve others.

And I will always know that I am fully loved and accepted by the One who matters most.

 

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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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Time

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Time is an amazing thing. It is one of the few things in this world that is constant and reliable, yet it often appears to change its pace.

One day time may move so slowly that I would swear the minutes were moving backwards; then suddenly time is soaring and I look back at weeks gone by and wonder where they went.

I look at my little niece and nephew and pray desperately for time to slow down. They are growing rapidly and there is not enough time to savour each moment of their lives and their growth.

Occasionally I visualize upcoming adventures and I am suddenly looking for time to sprint ahead. I want the hours to move quicker as I await an exciting future experience.

Time can never win with all of the indecisiveness of humans. We are constantly frustrated by it moving too slow or we’re unnerved by its rapid pace.

But the thing about time is that it is consistent, unlike most things on earth. Time never changes what it is. It’s our perception of it that keeps changing.

It’s our own impatience that makes it feel too slow.

It’s our fear and inabiłity to keep up that makes it feel accelerated.

Time is constant and steady.

Time keeps moving forward even if we decide to stop.

Time doesn’t try to catch up if we choose to speed ahead.

Time is stable, but it is also unforgiving.

Time never goes back. No matter how much we beg for a rewind, it keeps ticking forward.

Time that has passed will never come back. We cannot recapture moments or bank them for future use. Once time is used, it never appears again.

Time is unrelenting. In our darkest moments, it does not pause for us. It doesn’t take a break when we get sick or hurt. It doesn’t stop for pain or suffering, for war or celebration, for love or anger. It keeps trekking on.

There is much we can learn from time.

Time teaches us to continue moving forward; no matter the pain or struggle, we need to keep going. The hope is that the next moment will be better than the last.

If time gets caught in a hurricane, it keeps moving toward the rainbow after the storm.

If time is lost in darkness, it ticks forward to the sunrise.

Time teaches us to always move ahead.

And because time is always taking the next step, it also teaches us the value of each moment. Once a second has passed, it’s gone forever.

For time, the past is history. There is no moving backwards. There is no rewind. It is up to us to make each minute count. It is up to us not to waste the time we are given. Time is immortal, but we are not.

So, what are you going to do with each minute, each second?

How are you using the time you are given?

I can admit that I don’t use all of my time wisely. I’ve wasted time – I’ve let it slip away from me. I’ve had experiences where I have stopped dead and let time pass me by.

I can’t get that lost time back. But I know that moving forward, I don’t want to continue letting time slip by me. I don’t want to miss moments. I don’t want to miss opportunities. I don’t want anymore of my time wasted.

We all get a certain amount of time in this world. None of us know what amount we receive. I don’t want to be at death’s door wishing I had used my time more effectively. When I leave this earth I want to do so peacefully, knowing that I did the best I could with the time I had.

I want to know that my time here had a purpose; I want to know I used it to make a positive difference in the world.

No matter how much time each of us has here, I am certain we are all here for a specific purpose. Each of us is here for an important reason, although we may not know that reason until many years into our lives.

All I know is that I don’t want to leave this world with my purpose for being here unfulfilled.

Do you?

Each day I am actively and openly trying to determine the purpose I have been given. I am observing and listening, and I am doing my best to follow the path I feel I am being led on.

Are you using your time wisely?

Are you fulfilling your purpose?

 

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Kindness

Earlier this week I found out that someone had some very unkind things to say about me behind my back. I am in a leadership position at work, so I know there will be times when people talk about me, and when they don’t like me due to decisions that I have to make. But this particular individual launched a very personal and very hurtful attack against me, and I wish I had never found out about it.

This person is someone I had a confrontation with six months ago, but I believed we had resolved things and both moved on. We had agreed to disagree and not hold anything against each other. I thought we were good.

I was shocked to find out about this attack on my character because I truly believed we had forgiven and moved on. We have had many conversations in the last six months that led me to believe all was well. To learn that these positive encounters were all fake is difficult for me.

I am someone who likes to be liked. I find it very hard when someone doesn’t like me. However, I am thickening my skin in that area because working in human resources means there are going to be people who don’t like me. I will have to enforce policies and have disciplinary conversations and make unpleasant decisions that people will not like. I’ve already experienced this side of things, and I am at a point where I am ok with it.

However, a personal attack is different. It is much more difficult to simply brush off. My feelings were hurt, and I was angry. Angry at this person for the nasty things said, but even angrier for the false things said.

In the moment I reacted in anger.

I said something about this person that was harsh and unnecessary.

Immediately after I took a swig of my water and choked. I coughed hysterically as my eyes watered and I struggled to breathe.

And I knew.

I knew that I was choking because of what I had just said. I knew I was choking to remind me that even though this person had been unkind to me, it was not ok for me to be unkind to her.

I reacted poorly to her treatment of me. Instead of holding my head up and being confident in who I was, I let her words get inside me. I let her words make me angry. I allowed her words to make me say something I deeply regret. I allowed her words to transform me into someone I don’t want to be.

I want to be kind, always. I am kind, but not always.

It is very easy to be unkind, especially when you feel hurt or betrayed or angry. But those feelings do not make it ok to be unkind.

It is never ok to be unkind.

Kindness is hard. Kindness is hard when someone has been mean to you. Kindness is hard when someone has hurt you. Kindness is hard when someone has caused you pain. Kindness is hard when someone is yelling at you, insulting you and swearing at you.

Kindness is hard.

Be kind anyway.

The alternative is unkindness.

We already have too much unkindness in this world. We already have too many angry voices, nasty words and hurtful actions. We already have too much pain and too much sorrow. We already have too many people who think it’s ok to be unkind.

Choose a different path.

Refuse to take part in the unkindness.

Choose love.

That’s my goal the next time I’m faced with unkindness.

 

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One Shot

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In the last little while, a lot of things have reminded me that life is short. We think we have all the time in the world to do what we want to do, to achieve our goals, to take that next step, to finally be happy. Each day, we say we will do it tomorrow.

But we forget that life is short.

My friend in Toronto has a cousin who just lost her father and three young children when their car was hit by a drunk driver.

Someone I have known for many years is coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis.

Life is short.

You see, we go about our lives thinking there is always more time. But we are not promised tomorrow or next week or next month or next year.

All we have is right now. All we have is today.

And these reminders of how short life is have made me realize that I don’t want to waste today. I want to live every day like it is my last.

I spent years in jobs that made me miserable, where I’d go home in tears or completely frustrated. I’ve spent time with people who put me down or treated me poorly. I’ve been in relationships with people who weren’t right for me or who didn’t appreciate me. I’ve let people stomp all over me and take advantage of me.

From each of these situations, good has come. I have learned from them, grown from them and become stronger because of them. Most importantly I’ve decided that I don’t want to waste time by being in those situations anymore.

I’d rather make next to nothing in a job I love than make lots of money in a job that results in my misery. I’d rather be single and happy than with someone who makes me feel small and unworthy. I’d rather stand up for myself and deal with any backlash than let someone use me as their door mat.

My biggest fear is wasting time. Wasting time worrying, or obsessing over what others think of me. Wasting time wishing for something different instead of appreciating and loving what I have. Wasting time with people who make me feel bad instead of giving everything of myself to those who love me.

We only get one shot at this life. It’s up to us to make it as good as it can possibly be, for ourselves and for others.

There is a man I see often at the gym I work at, and he is always in a bad mood. He hardly ever smiles and is constantly complaining. Nothing is ever right, and he seems to hate everyone he comes in contact with.

And I don’t get it.

I don’t understand how someone can be so miserable. I don’t understand why they can’t find some good in life. It sounds like I am judging this person, but I truly am not. I truly just don’t understand.

I know life is hard. It’s complicated. It often doesn’t go the way we think it should. Trust me, I know that very well. I could easily look at some of the things I’ve been through, especially my battle with depression and simply decide that there is no reason to be happy.

But I only get one shot at this life. And I refuse to live it in constant negativity.

Instead I choose to take the hurts, the anger, the betrayals, and the struggles, and learn from them. I choose to allow them to make me stronger, and I allow them to motivate me to create positivity and love and goodness.

When the day comes for me to leave this world, I want to know that I gave it my best shot. I want to know that I took every opportunity that came my way, that I followed my dreams and pursued my goals, that I helped others and gave of myself, that I loved and allowed myself to be loved.

You only get one shot at this life.

On my death bed, I don’t want to look back at my life and regret the chances I didn’t take or the words I didn’t say. I don’t want to regret spending my life with people who weren’t right for me or didn’t make me happy. I don’t want to have had a career that I hated or goals that I let slip away.

You only get one shot at this life.

And although this life is hard, filled with pain and brokenness, we have a choice in how we live it. We can be overcome by sorrow and negativity and spend our time unhappy and living with regret, or we can take the best and leave the rest. We can choose to be happy and learn from the bad. We can choose to surround ourselves with people who bring us joy and build us up. We can choose to build others up and offer a hand to those in need. We can choose to chase our dreams and be the best that we can be.

Because we only get one shot at this life.

Don’t waste it.

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Revelation

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Have you ever had a revelation? A moment when suddenly things make sense? It can feel like someone smacked you on the head and your brain begins to work again. Puzzle pieces that confused and frustrated you before now slide into place as things become clear?

I had a revelation a few nights ago.

It happened while I was reading a book called Kisses from Katie, which is about an American girl who moved to Uganda after graduating high school. Her intention was to only stay for a year, but she fell in the love with the country and the people, particularly the children. She ended up buying a house, and starting an organization to send children to school, as well as feed them. On top of that, she took in and adopted 13 orphan girls and instantly became a mom.

It’s an amazing and inspiring story that I recommend reading. This book has helped me in my faith, as well as providing the revelation I experienced the other night.

Things have not been great with me the last few weeks. In one week, my grandfather passed away and my closest friend in Windsor moved 3 hours away. And I admit that I have had a difficult time recovering from both of these things.

As time went on, my mood continued downward. I was tired and unmotivated to do anything but get up and go to work. I was stressed and lonely, and dangerously close to falling into a depression. I tried hard to fight it by doing all the things I am supposed to do. I made plans to see people and spend time with family. I ate healthy and tried to work out more. But I could not lift my mood.

My mind raced at night with various frustrations and worries. I was restless, but at the same time constantly tired. However, sleep evaded me many nights.

I was doing everything I could to make myself feel better. I wanted to get back to my positive, ‘glass half full’ self. But it felt like it was just out of reach.

Then came the revelation last Wednesday night.

Suddenly I knew exactly why I was feeling down and couldn’t pull myself out of the slump.

I realized that for the last two months I had been living just for me. I was focused on myself and my worries and my stress and my hurts and my disappointments.

I wasn’t doing anything for anyone else.

Life was all about me.

And that’s why I couldn’t pull myself out of my down mood.

I am someone who loves to help and loves to serve. I love to take of others. That is when I feel fulfilled. That is when I am happiest. And I haven’t done that in months.

No wonder things don’t feel right in my world.

I need to get outside of myself and out of my own head. I need to focus on others.

Just to be clear, I am not saying there anything wrong with taking some time to focus on yourself. It is extremely important to take care of yourself and remain healthy. And we all need time when we can step away from the craziness of life to explore our own thoughts, emotions and ambitions.

However, getting completely wrapped up in yourself for too long takes a turn to unhealthy. Being trapped in your own head can cause anxiety and stress, and can lead to things being blown out of proportion.

And focusing on only “me” will result in a feeling of emptiness and loneliness. The more focused I was on myself, the less motivated I became to do anything to improve my situation. I got lost in my own head and couldn’t see beyond my own thoughts.

For example, one of things I have been struggling with is finding good, deep friendships in Windsor. That has left me feeling lonely and desperately wanting to meet people. But I haven’t been doing anything new or different to try to meet people.

What I need to do is pull myself out of my longing for meaningful relationships, and find a organization that I can volunteer for. Chances are, as I focus on helping others, I am naturally going to make new friends with people who are also volunteering.

Once I start co-leading a women’s Bible study at my new church (which is happening in a couple of weeks), I will meet new people and have opportunities to form friendships.

I know once I refocus my attention and pull away from myself, things will begin to fall into place.

I know God hears my prayers and is ready and willing to answer them. I just need to remember the part I have to play to receive my desired answers. He’s been throwing opportunities at me and I’ve been missing them since I was so focused on myself.

I am incredibly grateful for the revelation I received 5 nights ago. It was a wonderful reminder of who I am and why I am here.

I am not here for me.

When Good gets Better

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Often when our lives are at a good point and we feel content, and dare we even say ‘happy’, we have the urge to press pause to keep things that way. We don’t want anything to change so we may, subconsciously, put off trying something new or taking a chance or speaking up. It can take a long time to get to good, and we fear losing it.

And while hitting pause may keep the the good from going bad, it also keeps the good from getting better. When things are good, we can have the tendency to think our luck has been used up and therefore the only way to go is down. But good can get better. It has for me.

Life has been good the last couple of months. I am recovered from my illness, I got a job, I paid off debts, I started my own little (unofficial) business and I’ve been meeting lots of amazing new people. I would have been very content to have things stay that way.

But good got better.

After 3 months at my new job, I was given a nice raise and more responsibility. Both my manager and the owner of the gyms have expressed a desire for me to step into more of a leadership role with even more responsibility. They want to work with me and help me grow as a staff leader and staff encourager. They’ve been quick to compliment me on my work and recognize my abilities. They see potential and are jumping at it. I feel valued and appreciated, two things I haven’t felt in a job for a while.

And I love the job! I look back over the last decade and the jobs I did and the things I strived for. I look at how I defined success, by title and salary, and what I needed to obtain that. But when I was working towards big titles and bigger pay checks, I ended up in misery.

Now I have a job that doesn’t have an impressive or important title, nor does it pay a lot, but this is the happiest I’ve ever been in a working environment. I get to meet people every day. I have a chance to get to know people and learn their stories. Every time the gym door opens, I have the chance to put a smile on someone’s face and brighten their day.

My mom keeps saying to me “You really like this job, don’t you?” Yes, yes I really do.

It’s funny to look back at myself chasing those things I thought were important only to realize now that they aren’t important at all. Money and titles mean nothing if achieved at the expense of your character, energy, sanity and happiness.

What’s important is a gym member who feels special because I know their name. What’s important is a co-worker who is proud when she hears I talked her up to our boss. What’s important are the gym members who know my name and want to know when I am working next. What’s important is my manager knowing she can rely on me to get things done. What’s important is looking forward to going to work every day.

I used to struggle to get myself out of bed and to work on time for jobs that started at 9am. I’d often be late and usually a bit of a mess when I got there. Now I get myself out of bed by 3:30am to be at the gym for 4:45am with a 40 minute commute. And I haven’t struggled to do that once. That speaks volumes.

There are lots of other things in my life that are getting better too. I found a room to rent in a nice house in Tecumseh and will be moving in less than a month. The owner has two dogs, and I have been wishing for a pet for months, and now I get two without any expense.

I have sold a few pieces of my jewelry, which is incredibly exciting!

I have a beautiful bond with my niece and nephew who I absolutely adore and I am so grateful I am close to them to see them grow and change every day.

Life isn’t perfect, nor do I expect it to ever be. But a couple months ago it was good. Now it’s better. And there is no way I am hitting pause. Because even though there is a chance something bad could happen, there’s also a chance for the better to become best.

Don’t let your life remain at a standstill because you are content and afraid something bad could happen. Because you could be missing out on something better.

And if the path you are on isn’t working for you anymore, take a different route. Life is too short to just be content or ‘ok’. Better may be just around the corner, but you’re afraid to make that turn.

Go ahead and make that turn!

Go for better.

Dear Little Girl

A few weeks ago, my counsellor gave me an assignment to write to myself as a young girl when my family was living in the Caribbean. We lived in St. Kitts for nearly 4 years, and the reason my counsellor wanted me to write to the girl I was then is because I still have wounds that have not fully healed from the time I spent there.

I was 8 when we moved there and 12 when we moved back to Canada. I went to an island school where I was one of only a few white kids. I was harassed and bullied because of the colour of my skin. I was called names and purposely left out of things. I was hit a few times by other kids, and even spat on once. I had a few friends in the beginning, but they quickly dropped off as they were ridiculed for playing with ‘white people’.

I was so excited when we moved back to Canada because I thought I would just fit in here since it was my home country. It didn’t work out that way; I came back with a funny little accent, a mix of English, American and Kittian, I was incredibly shy, and I was more than a little damaged. I was once again bullied and harassed.

It has been nearly 20 years since we left St. Kitts, but there are still things that, even today, will trigger a memory and open up old wounds. And that is why I wrote to the little girl I was. And here is what I told her:

Dear Little Girl,

I know life is hard for you. I know you feel completely alone and unwanted. I know you are confused and wondering why they are so mean to you. I know your days are filled with sadness and dread, and your nights are filled with tears and anxiety. I see you withdrawing, isolating yourself more and more, shutting out the rest of the world. And I understand.

I wish I could hug you and comfort you. I wish I could wipe your tears and hold your hand. I wish I could stand beside you and stop those who hurt you. You have no idea how much I wish I could make things better for you.

What I can do is tell you that you will survive this. It does get better. The pain, sadness, emptiness and anger you feel will one day begin to heal. You will learn from what you are experiencing. This hurtful time will teach you to be kind, compassionate, giving, nonjudgmental, and generous. It will cause you to develop a heart for those who are treated unfairly, those who feel alone, those who feel unloved. You will one day fight for them in the way no one fought for you.

I warn you that things will get worse before they get better. You will struggle more and face challenges that you can’t image. You will experience pain that you are not sure you can survive. But you will survive. There is a strength in you that you cannot fathom. This strength will surprise you with its power and determination. It will come barreling through during times when you don’t think you can go on. You will be on the edge, ready to give up completely, and your strength inside will fight its way to the surface and fight for you when you don’t feel you can fight anymore.

You will never give up, no matter how much you may want to. You will come dangerously close to ending it all, but you will never follow through. Something will always stop you. Your strength, your will to live, your love, and your hope. You will hold on to hope during times when you are not sure it even exists. You have a fighting spirit, a fire in your eyes, and no matter how many times someone or something tries to put that fire out, a spark will always remain.

Precious girl, you will experience such love and joy and peace in your life. You will know heartache, but the happiness you experience will push you through that. The hope you have and the strength within you will get you through things you never thought possible.

And you, darling, will experience the greatest love imaginable when you find Jesus. Knowing Him, trusting Him, accepting His unconditional love will give you a peace that will cradle your soul. He will be your rock, your stability. He will carry you when you are too weak to keep going. He will whisper His love to you when feel unworthy or unwanted. Through Him, you will find purpose, a reason to live. He will give you courage and will always walk beside you. He will turn a light on inside you that will shine out of you and allow you to live the life intended for you.

Knowing Jesus will not mean life will be easy or that you will always be happy. You will suffer and face difficult times. You will cry out to Him in dark times, begging for the pain to go away. But be patient. He will use your struggles and your suffering to create good things. He will use you to help others, to comfort others, to listen to others, to lead others. Take comfort, sweet girl, for He has a plan for you.

Little girl, I ask you to be brave. Those who are hurting you don’t really know what they are doing. They are just young too. Their actions and their words may stick with you and create lifelong wounds, but those wounds will help you create good. Those wounds will help you love. Those wounds will allow you to help others.

You are here for a reason. You have a purpose. And that purpose is so much bigger than what is happening right now. You are strong, stronger than you can possibly imagine. You are a beautiful, precious child of God’s. And you are going to be ok. Have courage, little girl. I promise it will get better.

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This is me, about age 9, at home in St. Kitts with my dog, Freckles. That ugly brown dress was my school uniform.

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Who am I?

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It’s a question we ask ourselves many times over the course of our lives, especially when we are younger.

Who am I?

It can be difficult to answer since many people don’t take the time to get to know themselves. They don’t take the time to figure out what they want, what they believe, what their dreams are or what their goals are.

Instead, many of us let other people or status or jobs define who we are.

An authority figure once told you that you are not very smart and wouldn’t do much in life. So, who are you? I am dumb and useless.

You were born into a family with lots of money. So, who are you? I am wealthy and can have anything I want.

Your marriage failed and you’ve split from your spouse. So, who are you? I am a divorced, single parent.

You started at a company at a young age and kept getting promoted. Twenty years later, you are Vice President of a company that you’re not even sure you enjoy working for. So, who are you? A person with a high paying, high profile job.

Do you understand the point I am trying to make? We all take one or two things in our lives and let that specific thing define who we are, whether it is a job, relationship, where we were born or something someone once said to us.

But what people seem to forget so often is that only they can decide who they are.

A job does not define you. A relationship is not who you are. Having lots of money doesn’t say anything about your personality. And something someone once said to you or about you doesn’t make it true.

I spent a long time trying to figure out who I am. I’ve taken on many roles as I tried to find an identity. Mostly I changed roles based on my situation, often in a desperate attempt to try to fit in.

I’ve been the outcast; I’ve been part of the popular crowd; I’ve been the smart one; I’ve been the clown; I’ve been kind; I’ve been mean; I’ve been cocky; I’ve been humble; I’ve been the fun, drunk party girl; I’ve been boring; I’ve been the one who walks the line; I’ve been the law-breaker; I’ve been loud; I’ve been quiet; I’ve been the bullied; I’ve been the bully; I’ve been the shopaholic who wears designer jeans; I’ve been the bargain hunter who buys clothes for less than $10; I’ve been sane; I’ve been crazy; I’ve been  the girl with depression; I’ve been the fighter; I’ve been the rebel; I’ve been the church girl.

I could go on, but the point is made. I’ve tried to fit into various stereotypes in an effort to discover who I am and where I belong. Yet, none of the above things define me. Some may still apply to me today, but many don’t. However, none of them on their own represent the whole of me.

People are complicated and unique and interesting and beautiful. None of us can be defined by one thing. There are so many things that make up who we are. Yet we often get stuck on one or two things that we allow ourselves to think encompasses all of us.

We are so much more intricate than that!

I am lucky that at 31 years old I know exactly who I am. Many don’t reach this discovery until much later in life. It doesn’t mean I have everything figured out. It doesn’t mean I know where I’ll be in 5 years. It doesn’t mean my life is planned.

It means I know myself. It means that no matter what life throws at me, what changes or struggles I face, I know who I am deep down inside and I will remain that person at my core.

Sure, I’ll change and grow and evolve as life goes on. But my values and beliefs will remain constant. I know my limits. I know the risks I’m willing to take. I know how I want to treat others and how I want to be treated. I know what makes me laugh and I know what makes me cry. I know the things that I will and won’t compromise on. I know my value and my worth. I know the value and worth of those in my life. I know when to stick it out and when to walk away. I know what is right for me and what is not. I know my gifts and I know my flaws. I know what I’m good at and what I am not.

Most importantly I know that someone else’s opinion of me doesn’t change who I am. No one word can define me. No one can steal my sense of self.

I know who I am.

Who are you?

Have you taken the time to discover yourself? Do you truly know yourself inside and out?

If you don’t, I pray you will take the time to learn who you are. You are not your job, your wealth or your relationship status. You are not the mistake you made yesterday or the challenge you will face tomorrow. You are not your illness. You cannot be defined by one thing.

Take the time. Go and find yourself. Know your talents, and acknowledge your faults. Embrace your gifts and your imperfections.

Once you know who you are, you’ll find a sense of peace that can’t be taken away. You’ll be able to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in. You’ll know the answers to decisions that were difficult to make before.

Most importantly, don’t ever let someone or something tell you who you are.

And never apologize or make excuses for who you are. Accept yourself. Love yourself.

And yes, that is a picture of me, all dressed up, hoola-hooping at a wedding. Because I am someone who loves to have fun!