Category Archives: Love

Love Shines Brighter

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It often seems as though our world is completely falling apart, or turning to pure evil. Every day we wake up to disturbing and horrific news. There are stories of parents starving their own children, teens murdering their parents, and people vanishing from the streets daily due to kidnappings.

Because I work at a church, I hear many heart-breaking stories of illness, abuse, violence, and addiction. I have friends who have lived through the unimaginable, and I meet people regularly who have either gone through horrific experiences or are currently enduring them.

Then this week there was another bombing attributed to terrorism. This bombing took place in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert, a building filled with children, teens and families.

What is happening?

Today there are so many places that were once considered safe places that no longer are – elementary & high schools, airports, churches, universities, entertainment stadiums, and the list goes on.

Today, nowhere is truly safe.

How can this be?

With all of the bad news we are bombarded with daily – in the newspapers, online and on TV – don’t you want to hide under the covers in bed some days?

Do you sometimes feel like just giving up?

I know there are times I do.

But then I hear the counter stories of all of this terrible news. There are the stories of the people in Manchester who immediately opened their homes to those displaced after the concert bombing. They welcomed strangers who couldn’t immmediately find friends or family members who were with them at the concert.

How beautiful is that?

Other times when I am ready to give up, I get the honour of witnessing an act of pure love, kindness or generosity.

A woman who has been ill and just received some terrible news from her doctor comes into the church sobbing. She is immediately embraced by two female pastors and a compassionate volunteer who comfort her and pray for her. By the time she leaves she is filled with hope and joy, and a wide smile covers her face.

In July I am going on a mission trip, and last night the team had our big fundraiser. It was an amazing example of the generosity and kindness of others. It was not just the generosity of those who attended the fundraiser and bid on auction items that blew me away, but the generosity of the whole community with donations they gave to include in our two auctions. Many of those who donated had nothing to do with our church or our mission, but gladly offered what they could. Then there were the many volunteers, aside from the team members, who gave their time and energy to help organize, set-up, prepare food and clean up for the fundraiser. We also have people consistently offering financial donations, so our team of 14 people can travel to spread the love of Jesus.

How incredible is that?

It can be easy to become discouraged by the many devastating things that are happening in our world. The news and stories are shocking and heartbreaking, and can be too much to bear. There are days I purposefully avoid the news and certain websites because I can’t handle another sad story.

Instead of getting weighed down by the bad, we need to switch our focus.

We need to focus on the good.

We need to peacefully stand against the evil, and we need to do it together, hand in hand.

I firmly believe there is more good than bad in this world. I whole-heartedly believe that the love outweighs the hate in humanity.

So let’s focus on the love.

Let’s refuse to stand for the hate.

That does not mean attacking in retaliation. It does not mean banning or abusing the Muslims in our communities because the terrorist groups claim to be acting on behalf of Islam.

Before condemning all because of the acts of few, take a moment to learn a little about the Muslim faith. I don’t know a lot about it, but I do know it is a religion of peace.

These terrorist groups are not true Muslims or working in the name of Islam.

So don’t turn on your Muslim neighbour and add to the hate.

We are angry about these acts of violence. Our hearts are broken, and we want justice for those who lost their lives or were injured.

But anger is not the way to respond. Although it feels natural, anger and hate will never win.

Let’s respond in love.

For those who, like me, are followers of Jesus, remember his teachings. He said to love our neighbour as ourselves. He sad to show grace, kindness and mercy. He asked us not to pass judgement on others, but to love our enemies. He asked us to go in peace.

Be like Jesus.

There are many examples of love, compassion, unity and kindness out there. Find them and use them as strength.

In times of struggle and strife, be the first to reach out a helping hand.

Be the love.

There’s a song by Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera that is one of my favourites. The chorus repeats “Turn up the love. Turn down the hate”.

Let’s turn up the love and overcome the hate.

Because love will always shine brighter.

 

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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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4 Years Ago: What I Didn’t Know…

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Today was a birthday party for my niece’s 4th birthday. Her actual birthday is tomorrow, but the weekend is always better for a party!

Every time I see this beautiful, sweet little girl, my heart melts and I fall head over heels, just like I did the very first time I saw her four years ago.

The day is still clear in my mind. It was two weeks before her due date when the phone rang early on Tuesday July 10th 2012. My sister’s water had broke and they were on their way to the hospital. A few hours later I was in my car, driving from Oakville to Windsor in what felt like the longest car trip imaginable.

My excitement at becoming an aunt was unfiltered and unashamed. I would tell anyone who would listen that I was going to be an aunt. I’m sure my friends and co-workers were quite sick of hearing me talk about it.

She didn’t make her appearance until the very early hours of July 11th, and I saw her for the first time later that day.

There was so much I didn’t know before that moment when I first held her.

I didn’t know I could love someone so much or so quickly.

I didn’t know how fiercely protective I could be of another human being. When the doctor came in to check her over and she started to cry, it took every ounce of willpower I had not to snatch her from him and then knock him out for making her cry.

I didn’t know that simply holding her and watching her while she slept would bring such joy.

I didn’t know that she would consume my thoughts every day, and how anxious I’d be until I was with her again.

I didn’t know that every time I shopped or ran an errand, I’d fine something that I just had to get her.

I didn’t know how much I would miss her when I wasn’t with her.

And I didn’t know that once I moved back, I’d never want to leave because I could not stand the thought of not being near her, and there for her as she grows.

I just didn’t know…

Four years later, none of the above has changed, except that if possible, I love her even more.

She is perfect. She can do no wrong. Even when she misbehaves, she is still the most adorable thing on earth. She is the smartest little girl I have ever known. She is the funniest little girl I have ever met. She is precious, angelic and holds the key to my heart.

How did I ever live without this beautiful little person?

I look at her and find such happiness seeing pieces of people I love in her.  I even see pieces of me in her – something that gives me more joy then I ever thought possible.

Loving her gives me strength. She gives me strength to get through the hard days because I need to be here for her. I need to walk through life with her. I need to make sure she is happy. I need to protect her from harm.

I didn’t know being an aunt would be such an important job. I didn’t know how much I would love it.

And I didn’t know that one sweet girl could bring me such unending joy.

Happy 4th Birthday to my gorgeous niece!

My Favourite Person

image.jpegMy favourite person is someone who has been there since the day I was born. He used to sing ‘Zip-pa-dee-do-da’ when travelling in the car. He would flex his muscle while I happily swung from his arm. His Donald Duck impersonation had me in hysterics. On secluded, open roads, he’d swerve the car back and forth to allow the feeling of an amusement ride as I giggled happily.

He took me to my interview at Ryerson when I applied for the Radio and Television Arts program. At the end of my first year, he drove to Toronto, moved me out of residence and took me to a Blue Jays game. We left in the 7th inning when the Jays were losing by 7 runs. They ended up coming back and winning. We’ve never left another ball game early.

During my 10 years in Toronto, as I became a young professional and tried to figure life out, he was there for support, advice, financial help, moving help (how many times did I move during that decade?), always on the other end of the phone or an email or driving to the city with my mom for a visit.

At 25 I decided to do a short term mission trip to Romania. When he heard about it, he said he’d like to do it too. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had with him and I still cherish that we did that together.

The year he turned 60 and I turned 30, we travelled to Boston so he could finally go to Fenway Park, the home of his beloved Red Sox. It was a trip that is etched on my heart and remains one of my favourite vacations.

He was there in times of crisis. The night I was on the phone with him, expressing that I just didn’t want to live anymore and he said ‘We’re on our way’. It was 2am. They were at my door before sunrise. The time I lost my job and he said ‘Come home’. The door to his house was immediately open. And for several months he walked with me as I not only dealt with the loss of my job, but also a loss of myself, the wounds of a betrayal, and a struggle to figure out what my purpose was.

He never pushed too hard or made demands. He let me take things at my own pace, while constantly assuring me that I had a purpose and too much potential to waste.

When everything fell apart again, his door was once again open. He was even willing to renovate the basement to create an apartment for me if it came to the point where I couldn’t work again.

He took the time to research my disease, to ask questions, to seek out professionals, so he knew exactly how to help me. He admitted he didn’t understand, but he knew my struggle was real and would do anything necessary to help me be healthy.

Why did he do all these things?

Because he’s my dad.

Over the years, as I’ve grown up, he’s become so much more than my dad.

He’s my confidante.

My mentor.

My teacher.

My baseball watching buddy.

And most importantly, my friend.

And he is my favourite person in this world.

He makes me laugh more than anyone – probably because we have the same odd sense of humour. He challenges me and keeps me on my toes. He knows when to offer advice and when to hold his tongue.

His generosity knows no limits.

I have always thought that if I could end up being half as good as him, that would be a successful life.

My father. My friend. My favourite guy.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

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Cheering for my Team

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As a lifelong Blue Jays fan, this is a very exciting time for me. My boys have made it into the postseason for the first time since I was 10 years old. And tonight, in a crazy, epic game, they won Game 5 and are moving on to the ALCS series.

Not only has it been amazing as a fan to watch my team do so well, it has also been incredible to watch other fans, in Toronto and across Canada, get excited and cheer for the only Canadian Major League Baseball team. Yes, some are band wagoners who weren’t necessarily Jays fans before the postseason, but who cares?

Seats are selling out in Toronto, excitement fills the air, and people are coming together (as per the Jays postseason hashtag #cometogether) to cheer, support and celebrate this amazing time in Blue Jays baseball.

In the last few weeks, I have found myself starting conversations with strangers simply because they are wearing a Jays hat or shirt. It’s been an opportunity to meet and get to know new people that I immediately have something in common with – a love of the game and a love of the Jays.

As I’ve watched fans near and far rally around our Canadian team, keeping the faith even after two loses in the beginning of the postseason, and standing by as support and encouragement until the end of tonight’s unpredictable, insane win, it’s made me think beyond just baseball.

What if we, as human beings, did that for each other?

What if we rallied around each other in such an enthusiastic way to cheer on each individual and celebrate with them all of their successes?

Just think about it…

What if we put aside envy, anger, judgement and lack of interest, and instead cheered on our friends, family and strangers alike?

Most of us are lucky enough to have a good support system; people who are there to congratulate us on achievements and there to hold our hand after we fail. And this is amazing.

But I’m thinking much bigger here.

I’m thinking about being honestly, enthusiastically, undeniably thrilled for someone else’s accomplishments and successes. Without envy or protest or snide remarks.

Image if we could put aside our differences and our own desires, and just cheer for one another.

That’s a world I’d love to live in.

Image the outcome if we supported and encouraged each through good times and bad, rather than mocking or putting each other down.

My guess is that both success rates and confidence would sky rocket for many.

Right now, many people across Canada are coming together for a baseball team, a team that I love and will forever be a fan of. But what if we could also come together for each other? And not just nationwide, but worldwide.

Forget the judgement and criticism and ignorance.

Encourage.

Support.

Engage.

Inspire.

Raise your arms and cheer for each other like you would your favourite sports team.

My Grandfather

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To many in the small town of Elmira, he was a well known businessman, a florist, a landlord, and a restaurant owner. He was a family man who went to church on Sundays and worked hard during the week. He was a man who loved his home and lived on the same street his entire life.

But to me, my sister and my 5 cousins, he was ‘Papa’, grandfather of 7, something he proudly proclaimed on his personalized license plate, PapaB7.

For me, he was the only grandfather I ever knew. He has been a part of my life since the day I was born, at the head of the table at family dinners, carving the turkey on the holidays, and although he never said a lot, he was just there. He was present, and he was comfort, always there for his family.

He didn’t always agree with choices I made, such as when I became a vegetarian at age 12, or when I went through a phase of wearing heavy black eye liner in my teens (he was right about that one), but I always knew that he cared. He was concerned for my wellbeing, and wanted only the best for me.

He wasn’t overly affectionate, nor did he run in the yard with us when we were kids, but he showed his love in many other, often subtle, ways.

For me that love was most evident when I was living in Toronto, and every few months I would ask if I could visit him and Nana for a weekend. He never hesitated in welcoming me, nor did he utter a single complaint about having to drive to downtown Kitchener to pick me up at the bus station. And every time I left after a weekend, he made sure to tell me that I could visit anytime, that I was always welcome.

I have never once doubted his love for me.

Even during the last time I saw him, visiting him in the retirement home, I could see him trying to be strong just for me. I saw the pain in his face – it flashed across his eyes with each little movement – but he still asked how I was doing, how my job was going, what my new place was like. I could see the effort he was making to show he cared, and to make sure I didn’t worry about him.

He was a man of quiet strength who loved God and loved his family, and worked hard to provide for all of us.

And as we sit here on earth grieving our loss and trying to say goodbye, heaven has gained another angel. We can celebrate his life, and feel comfort knowing he is in a better place, where no pain can ever touch him again.

Papa, as you look down on us tonight, know that you are deeply loved and will be greatly missed.

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