Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

 

 

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He Provides

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As I look back over the last year, one key thing I have been reminded of over and over is this: God is faithful.

Of course, this is something I already knew, but in times of struggle and uncertainty and stress, it is amazing how quickly I forget. I get caught in the worry, the fears, and the “what ifs?” I forget that God is in complete control, and I try to take over. In moments of insecurity, facing the unknown, I unconsciously think that I can do better than Him. Or I convince myself that He has forgotten me.

Yet each time I go back to my Bible, to church, to my friends who are Christ followers, it is so clear and simple: God is faithful. He will provide.

What’s important to remember in this is that, not only does He provide, but He does it in His time. In my own impatience and stubbornness, I often try to speed ahead when I think God is not working fast enough. I try to push forward and force things to happen. And that always ends up in a huge mess.

And again, God gently and graciously reminds me to wait on Him because He will provide at the time that is right.

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”                                                                                              Luke 12:19

For the last 6 months, I have been support raising as I prepare move to the Czech Republic to be a full time missionary. It has been a rewarding and challenging journey with times of great excitement and times of discouragement.

I would joyfully celebrate each time a new monthly partner signed up, but then weeks would go by without any new partners despite my constant support raising efforts. In those times I would question. I would wonder if I’d ever reach the next goal. What if I didn’t make the 60% of my monthly support needed to attend the Pre-Departure training in October? If I missed the deadline, the next training is not until February 2019, weeks after my planned departure date.

What if I can’t get my Bible courses done in time? What if I can’t pay off all of my debts before I go? What if I can’t raise the $40,000 in upfront costs I need?

What if? What if? What if?

I doubted. I became discouraged. I grew impatient. I let frustration set in. I tried to take control.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”                            Romans 8:32           

Then God said, “Why are you worried? Why do you doubt? I called you to this – I will provide.”

And provide He has, as He always does.

I currently sit at 64% of my monthly support, weeks before the deadline, and I am already registered for the Pre-Departure training in October.

Support is coming in regularly, tickets are selling for my upcoming fundraiser, I have nearly half of my upfront costs, my debts are dwindling steadily, and I’ve completed 3 Bible courses and I’m nearly done the 4th.

Why did I doubt? Why did I worry?

God is faithful.

If we are following Him, and the purpose He has chosen for us, we have nothing to fear. He tells us that again and again throughout the Bible.

This is the God who loved us so much, He sent His only son to die, so that we can be saved!

He loves us so much that He knows the number of hairs on our head!

How amazing is that?

How could we ever doubt His faithfulness?

What could we possibly fear?

For if He is for us, who can stand against us?

I want to live every day in utmost joy, knowing my God provides! Knowing He is faithful! Knowing He knows what’s best for me!

In times of struggle and trial, I pray that I don’t doubt or worry or fear. I pray that I stand firm when faced with uncertainty because I know He is in control.

God is all powerful, relentless in His love, and generous in His provision.

There is no reason to fear.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”           Jeremiah 29:11

 

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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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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Purpose

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Lately I feel like I have been driving the wrong way down a one way street. And every time I try to turn around, I end up getting stuck, and my only option is to keep driving the wrong way.

For those who have read my last couple blog posts, you know that I stopped working over a month ago. My depression forced me to resign from my job as my doctor put me on an indefinite leave of absence.

Since then my world has been very muddled. I have been dealing with numerous emotions, but mostly have just felt completely lost.

I’ve accepted that I can’t work full time and can’t have what many would perceive to be a normal job/career.

I’ve accepted that going on disability may be my best option at this point. Although filling out that application was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

But the question that is torturing me, keeping me awake at night, keeps running through my head. What now?

Everyone needs to feel like they have a purpose in life. And everyone’s purpose is different. We were all made to do something specific. For some, it is being a parent and raising good kids. For some it is the job they do. For some it is travelling and doing mission work. For some it is finding ways to cure and/or treat devastating illnesses.

Right now I feel like I have no purpose. No one needs me. I don’t have kids to take care of, or even a pet to look after. I’m not working so there is no one depending on me to do a job.

Last week I spent 3 full days in bed. There wasn’t a reason for me to get up. My depression took hold of me and imprisoned me in bed, unable to face the day.

If I have a reason to get up in the morning, like an appointment or baby-sitting my niece and nephew, I can do it.

It’s those days where nothing is planned and no one needs me that are challenging. I have to find ways to fill my day. Which I am doing little by little.

But I feel useless.

I am working on healing and getting stronger every day, and that is important. But then I question what I am gaining strength for. I can’t work, and I have no one to take care of. So I’ll regain my strength and get healthy again….but for what?

I know that I have a purpose.

I am not despairing over not having one because I trust there is a plan for me. As I look back over my life I can see that plan working, how things happened and fell into place. There is no doubt in my mind that I am here for a reason. All that I’ve been through. All that I have survived. It can’t be for nothing.

My struggle is that I don’t know yet what that purpose is. I don’t know which way to step, which path to take.

I have some thoughts, some ideas of what I’m meant to do, where I am meant to go. But at the moment that’s all they are. Thoughts and ideas.

It’s scary. I always saw my life going in a certain direction. Now all that I knew and all that I planned has been uprooted and taken away.

But I still have hope, and I still have faith.

I know I am here for a reason, just like everyone else is. And I recognize that even once I find that reason, it will likely change over the years.

And as I work towards filling my days with something meaningful, and taking steps in the direction of my purpose, I will focus on the hope.

Hope for tomorrow and hope for my future.

And I will celebrate the little things I am achieving each day as I fight to get healthy.

Elephant Love

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A couple weeks ago I saw a very sweet video that came up in my Facebook feed. I believe it was taken at a zoo. There was a baby elephant that was trying to climb up on a rock, but he fell backwards and got stuck on his back. Within seconds two adult elephants came rushing to his aide, quickly followed by a third adult elephant. They got he baby elephant back on his feet and created a protective circle around him to keep him safe.

What touched me most about this video is that it made me think of my own family and close friends. When I had my breakdown and sunk into a deep depression 4 weeks ago, my family rushed to my side and surrounded me, protecting me and supporting me. They loved me, were patient with me and stayed with me on my darkest days. They made sure I was never alone.

My friends were quick to gather around me too. I received text messages, Facebook messages and calls checking up on me and letting me know they were praying for me.

My church gathering, which is one of the things that has kept me going these past weeks, provided wonderful care and support to me.

Now, 4 weeks after I walked out of work, I am looking at how lucky I am.

I am lucky to have such an incredible family who will do anything for me. They are waiting patiently for me to work through my depression, encouraging me but never pushing me.

I am lucky to have wonderful friends who love me and support me, even when I am not pleasant to be around.

Like those adult elephants rescuing the baby elephant, my family and friends rushed to help me.

The love that they have shown me has been so amazing, and so giving. It filled me with hope when I was feeling nothing but emptiness.

To all my friends and family who have been taking care of me and supporting over the last 4 weeks, I thank you. I wish I had better words to describe my gratitude. I hope you know how much I love and appreciate all of you.

And while I am not completely out of the darkness yet, each day gets a little better.

And it’s because of you.

Twists and Turns

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Life is full of twists and turns. You think you are on a certain path, then suddenly the road before you makes a sharp turn, and you begin heading into unknown territory.

This can be exciting. But it can also be terrifying.

My life took another unexpected twist this week. I guess I can’t say it was completely unexpected as I knew it was always a possibility this would happen, but I hoped and prayed it wouldn’t.

For those of you who read my last post, you know I was in a deep depression last week that led to me being off work for a week. Well, I wasn’t ready to go back yet this week and again went to visit my doctor. She put me on an indefinite leave of absence from work.

While working through some things last week, I had already decided that I was going to quit my job. The stress of it was too much and I knew if I didn’t resign, it wouldn’t be long before I ended up in the hospital. It was the stress and pressure of the job that triggered my depression.

This is the third time this has happened. I have had to take 3 leaves of absences in 5 years with 3 different jobs.

This time I realized I had to face reality. It was clear that the issue was not with any of the jobs. The issue was my depression. The stress and pressure of working full time is something I just can’t handle because of my illness.

Admitting this to myself is hard. I still haven’t fully accepted it.

But I did resign from my job. When I told them about the indefinite leave, I also requested that they not hold the position for me. It wasn’t fair to them for me to take an extended amount of time off, and I also knew that I would probably never return to full time work again. They are a small company and need someone in the role that I was in.

Since resigning from my job, I have been dealing with all kinds of different emotions.

Sadness.

Frustration.

Relief.

Confusion.

Fear.

Fear has been the biggest one. It has led to not sleeping and middle of the night anxiety attacks.

Fear of what my life is going to look like going forward. Fear of never being able to be independent. Fear of not having the financial means to take care of myself. Fear of never being able to travel or do things I want to do. Fear of becoming a burden to my family.

And finally, fear of what people are going to think. One of the first things asked when you meet someone new is, “what do you do for a living?”

What are they going to think when my answer is “nothing”?

I know I shouldn’t care what others think. I’m working on that, but I’ve been judged a lot because of my illness, so it’s a natural fear for me.

There is a part of me that feels completely defeated. I feel like I am giving up. That maybe I should have tried harder.

And a part of me feels like a failure.

I tried to lead a healthy, normal life. I’ve lived alone for a decade, had a couple of careers, worked full time, volunteered, had lots of friends. I tried really hard. And I suffered a lot trying to keep up with what life expected of me.

But now I need to face my limitations. I need to accept what I can and cannot do. I need to accept that my life isn’t going to be what is considered normal for most.

Then there is the other part of me that knows and trusts that there is still something ahead for me. No, I won’t be able to work a typical 40 hour per week job. No, I won’t be able to handle too much stress. And I know that my depression can surface at any time, crushing me, taking away my energy and spirit.

But I look back at all I have been through. All I have experienced. All the twists and turns of my life so far. And things have always turned out ok.

God has always taken care of me. I look back and see how events lined up to bring me where I am. And I know there is more for me.

I know I have a purpose that I have not yet fulfilled.

For now, I am taking the time to rest and heal. My focus is on getting healthy again.

I know I will recover as I have many times before. Like all of my previous times of depression, this time will make me stronger.

One thing I do know is that this disease will not defeat me. I’ve been through the worst of it and I have survived. I am a fighter. And when my defences are down and I am weak, there are people around me who will fight for me.

I know I can always count on that.

And most importantly, I have my faith. God has never abandoned me before. And I know He never will.

 

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Potholes

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All drivers have experienced it. Driving along a stretch of road, sailing smoothly on cruise control, windows down, hair blowing in the wind, tunes on the radio, and then BAM! You hit a pothole that snaps you out of your peaceful, enjoyable journey. It’s shocking, unexpected and quite jarring. It can even be damaging depending on the size of the hole that just tried to eat your car.

I hit a pothole this week. Only mine wasn’t on the road while driving. Mine was a life pothole. It yanked me out of my daily routine, smacked me in the face and left me to try and pick up the pieces.

When I first started this blog almost a year ago, it was to raise awareness about mental health and living with depression. Over the year, the blog evolved and became about living each day and making the best of life. I’ve tried to write posts that are positive, inspiring and life giving. I have been focusing on the good.

And I want to continue to do that.

But I don’t want to forget why I began writing here to begin with. I wanted to share my story of depression, the ups and downs, the judgement and the support, the struggles and the triumphs. I wanted to be honest and real about what it is like to live with mental illness.

How can I be real if I don’t share my times of struggle as well as all of the good?

My goal is to be vulnerable and hopefully through my openness and honesty, I can help someone else who goes through what I go through. Depression is awful. It is suffocating, exhausting, painful and cruel.

My depression attacked in full force this week. I have been struggling on and off for a few weeks, hiding it as best I can and pretending everything is fine, while enduring the inner battle. But that is exhausting and on Monday I broke.

I left work and headed straight to the doctor where I was put on a leave of absence for one week. My doctor told me to go back and see her if I wasn’t ready to go back to work next week.

The last few days have been spent mostly in bed. There have been tears, but mostly I am too exhausted to do anything. I get up for a couple of hours and then have to go back to bed. Yesterday washing my face and brushing my teeth left me so exhausted that I went back to bed for 6 hours.

Today I went out for a few hours and then fell asleep almost immediately when I got home. I am worn out. I don’t have much of an appetite. When I am awake, my mind is racing so fast that I get overwhelmed and panicked. Then exhaustion takes over again and I go back to bed.

Why am I sharing this? I promise I am not looking for sympathy. I am sharing this because this is depression. This is what it looks like. And there are millions of people around the world who are suffering.

And many of those suffering are not as lucky as I am, because I have solid support around me. I have an amazing family caring for me. I have friends supporting, loving and praying for me. I have a good doctor who is working with me to help me heal.

And I have hope.

I have hope because I know I will pull through this. I have hope because I am not in this alone. I have hope because I have faith. I’ve been here before and God has always given me the strength to fight through it. He has never failed me.

And I have worked really hard to get where I am today. Nobody can accuse me of not trying. I have tried really hard to be healthy and happy, and for the most part I have done quite well.

Depression is a disease. It is an illness I have and am forced to deal with. It is not who I am.

However, this latest bout of my depression has brought up some questions, and I realize I do have some decisions to make in the near future. But for now I am focused on getting better.

I am also recognizing that perhaps I need to take some pressure off myself as well. I need to take it one step at a time, day by day.

And that’s ok.

Because it will get better.

I will get better.

 

 

Family

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Family can be much more than blood relations. Yes, we are all born into a family, but we also have the opportunity to create a family or families throughout our lives. If we’re lucky, we’ll have many families including the one that shares our DNA.

I have been blessed by family in countless ways. I was born into an amazing family. My mom, dad and sister are fantastic people, who I love deeply. My extended family is full of wonderful, kind, generous and caring individuals. I have two beautiful nieces and two awesome nephews, and a brother in law who is the brother I never had. Yes, I am lucky. God placed me in an incredible family.

I have also been blessed by the families I have built in my life. Friends who mean so much to me that they are much more than just friends. They are a part of me and hold special places in my heart. They are the ones that I may not see or talk to often, but when we are together, it is like we were never apart. Our lives and hearts are intertwined and there is a bond that cannot be broken.

17 months ago I moved back to the Windsor area to spend some time with my immediate family. I loved being near them and ended up sticking around and now have no plans to leave.

Living close to my family has been a gift. It was something I desperately needed, but had no idea that I was missing. The best decision I ever made was stay here instead of heading back to Toronto.

I love being able to go out for dinner with my parents, or drop by my sister’s house for a visit, or take my niece and nephew out for ice cream. Nothing compares to being physically close to them.

Today I feel doubly blessed because I am close to the family God gave me, and over the last 6 months I have built an incredible family around me as well.

In March 2014 I started a church gathering in Windsor. The church is Three Rivers, and it is an international church that was started by my friends and pastors in Australia. They asked me to start and lead a gathering in Windsor, and with just 4 others, we began to meet weekly.

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The start was slow and there were weeks when only 2 of us showed up. We wondered if we would ever grow, but we kept going, relying on faith.

Over the last few months our gathering has grown, reaching double digits in numbers.

But it isn’t the number that attends that matters. What matters is the family we have created.

I have attended many church gatherings, home churches and small groups, but I have never experienced anything quite like what we have at Three Rivers Windsor.

We are so much more than a home church. We are more than just a community of people gathering to worship our Lord. We are a family.

We are doing life together, sharing our stories, being vulnerable, supporting one another, and cheering each other on.

It is more than just a weekly gathering. We are going to dinners, grabbing coffee, talking on the phone, asking advice, sharing our struggles, attending shows and sporting events, and hanging out together.

We are bonding and digging deep together. We are able to admit our mistakes, share our faults and divulge our imperfections without judgement or backlash. Instead the response is acceptance and love.

Our family is a safe place. We’ve laughed together and cried together. We share our ups and downs, the good days and the bad. We offer each other advice or a shoulder to cry on.

We are a family.

We lift each other up, never put each other down. We accept each person who walks through the door, no matter their struggles or brokenness. We fight for each other and we pray for each other. We encourage each other and we listen to each other.

The tagline of Three Rivers is Belong and Be Loved.

And that is truly what it is. All are welcome. All are accepted. None of us are perfect. We all struggle. We are all broken.

But we know we are loved. And we know we belong.

We are family.

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