Tuesday, April 17, 2018

i learned (re-learned) a few valuable lessons as i faced my scary thing today.

1. the stuff i wrote in yesterday's blog post (see below) really works. not that i doubted that, obviously, as these are tools i have compiled and used along the way, but it feels pretty darn good to be able to take your own advice and benefit from it.

2. anxiety (almost always) lies. things don't turn out as half as bad as they feel like they will the night before.

3. i can "do hard things" (thanks, jenn khan) and endure anything, and so can YOU.

4. courage is empowering.

and lastly, so is a thoughtful text from a friend.

(and now we await the results.)

in the meantime, i am working on a workshop that my colleague and i are teaching this week in markham, getting ready for 'ladies night out' in regent park and our women's conference this weekend, and feeling really happy that i get to watch my favourite biagini pitch in today's double header against the royals. what more could one ask for, really?

until next time, friends.

Monday, April 16, 2018

sometimes, you have to face scary, uncomfortable things.

it could be in the form of of a hard conversation. or the need to get on an airplane even though they petrify you, or the need to visit someone really sick in a hospital room or show up to a funeral without knowing what to say. (who does, really?)

other times, it can come in the form of a doctor's appointment. like the one i have scheduled for tomorrow morning.

i've been having problems with my uterus (sorry, fellas), or right kidney (they're not sure) the past few months. sharp pains and jabs, to be exact. and frankly, it scares me. why? because i play the 'what if?' game a lot and because my mom died of uterine cancer. (worst case scenerio.)

of course, it could be a cyst, or something not life-altering, but it also could be the complete opposite, and it's going to take a really uncomfortable test to figure it out. (just writing that makes me cringe.)

but like i said, sometimes, you have to face scary, uncomfortable things.

but how?

here are three things that have helped me face scary things in the past (and will help me do the same tomorrow morning):

1. remind yourself that others have endured the very thing you fear.

i am not the first woman to have to go through with this dumb test (or the last), and i am certainly not the only one who has faced internal complications. if someone else can get through it, so can i. (and so can you.)

2. tell someone your fears and bring them to the light.

we all need people in our lives that we're comfortable enough to share our fears with. no need for over sharing (though some of you think i went there already with this blog lol), but bringing your fears into the light can make you feel less alone in it/them. more often than not, the person you're sharing with can help you process and help you shed some perspective on that which has the ability to paralyze you. don't let it paralyze you - share your fears with someone you trust.

and lastly, and most importantly,

3. train your brain to stop dwelling on the worst case scenerio and the 'what ifs?'.

listen, i am a huge fan of feeling and processing and i think both are important, but nobody gains anything by sitting at home and picturing your plane hitting the ground at rapid speed or your test results coming back negative. are both a possibility? sure. but we don't have control over such things, so why dwell on things that we can't control?

my counsellor back in the day taught me a valuable lesson; he told me that not only do our brains naturally pull towards the negative, but that in order to conquer those thoughts (which i have since learned is possible), we have to replace them with something positive.

i have a few incredible memories on hand: the time i checked the last remaining thing off of my original bucket list and jumped out of a fully functioning airplane, the time i saw a dream of mine come true when i brought a group of teenagers with me to africa and how we watched a whole village of people dance and praise God FOR HOURS when they saw that someone back home had donated a bunch of brand new cups and bowls for them to use for their porridge, or the day when i found out my good friend had bought me tickets to a jays' playoff game and how we couldn't stop screaming (and crying) when we waved our white flags in victory.

any time i find myself dwelling on something negative, i automatically re-live one of the above memories, and it works every single time.

but even still, sometimes (a lot of the time), you need to dwell on something far more powerful, too. like scripture.

verses like 1 Peter 5:7 that remind me to 'cast all of my anxiety on Him because He cares for me (you)'. or isaiah 41:10 that tells me (us) that i (we) don't have to fear because the Lord is with me (us). or, one of my favourites (today especially), philippians 4:6-7, do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation (including doctors appointments), by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. and - get this - the peace that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus".

feeling fearful? choose peace.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

this.

i’ve been reading (and re-reading) this ever since jen hatmaker posted it a few weeks ago:

"Going to church is saving my life right now. Now mind you, ours is a specific kind of church. Really simple and inclusion-y and Methodist-y (< that will make sense to the Methodists). Yesterday, two women led worship, a female assistant Superintendent preached, two women led the prayer team, and a woman gave communion. A young gay man came to church alone because after being an atheist, he found Jesus two weeks ago in the pages of our friend Colby Martin's book, Unclobbered, and can't believe how radically his soul is changing. (Being loved by Jesus and His people will rearrange your spiritual DNA, that's a fact.) Another woman came for the first time in years and told me, "I thought I was no longer a Christian because I departed from my fundamentalist upbringing, and they told me I wasn't. But I am. I think I just haven't found the right room." So she bravely came to church alone. Our whole lobby was filled with shoes and supplies you sent from all over the US for our homeless friends on Easter...we literally got another UPS shipment during church. Listen, church is the most imperfect thing I can think of. It is. It can wound as much as it heals, and it sometimes shuts its doors when Jesus bid us "go to the street corners and invite anyone you can find." It gets much wrong because people lead it and we are a historic mess. But if we can take the idea of "church" out of its weird, fancy, western context, out of the realm of entertainment, off the pedestal of perfect leaders and shiny living, away from the barely disguised goal of self-help, apart from the evil of protected hierarchy and exclusionary doctrines, and bring it all down to the ground, into the streets, around the table, and to its knees, church can be the most healing, life transformative place to meet the real Jesus...the one who loves us all and upended power structures and valued every outcasted person made in His image. Church and Christians can so strangely keep us from Jesus, but if you find a faith community that feels like the gospels and prioritizes our neighbors and sticks together even though their leaders are just medium and stuff goes sideways, hang on for dear life. That messy, kind of lame, rag-tag bunch of folks just might save your life too".

the truth is, i get it. church in regent park ‘saved my life’. and so did youth unlimited. the truth is, i’m surrounded by wonderful, loving, safe people. imperfect people, but safe people. people who want the best for me. people who love me well.

love takes on different forms, you know. sometimes it looks like giving me a ride or lending me a couch. other times, it looks like correcting me and restoring me gently.

if you don’t have people like this in your life, please find some. and if you’re tired of looking for them or too scared to trust people again (i was there), let me introduce you to my regent park/YU fam. you’ll love them, i swear. and they’ll love YOU, too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

he was my tray guy.

you see, one week we were short volunteers (which rarely happens) and allen was eager to help.

"sure, man", i said. "it would be a great help if you could be my tray guy and make sure that all of these trays get wiped and put away." he nodded and smiled.

let me tell you, HE WAS THE BEST TRAY GUY EVER.

he not only cleaned the ones i pointed out, but he took it upon himself to track down every other used tray, and didn't leave until there wasn't an unclean one in sight.

so when he approached me after dinner the following week asking if i needed some help, it was no a brainer. i pointed him to the trays.

let me tell you, allen faithfully wiped every single tray for me for the next few months.

that is, until he passed away last week. at age 37. because of a blood clot, making him the first person i personally know from regent park to pass away. and frankly, it stings.

but it also wakes me up. and sets a fire under my butt. and reminds me of the important role that my church and i have there. to reflect christ. extend grace and love. help people feel part of something and let our friends clean trays.

i couldn't walk by the tray rack last week without thinking about my friend allen and i have a feeling that i won't be able to this week, either. or next - or ever - and i hope that every time i do, i remember how important he was to us and how much he belonged, and that i never lose the urgency to do what i can to ensure that the rest of my regent park family knows that they're important and that they belong, too.

Monday, April 2, 2018

what is 5,486 feet long, 308 feet tall, and hits a top speed of 92 miles/hour? (thanks, wikipedia)

the leviathan, of course.

i have a love-hate relationship with this particular roller coaster. i love every minute of the actual ride. the anticipation. the buckling in. the brief "there's no turning back now" moment on the way up. the drop - especially the drop - the tunnel. heck, the whole darn thing.

but what i hate about this particular ride is how dull it makes every other ride look. the vortex bores me now. the dragon fire? not even worth lining up for. everything else seems boring in comparison.

it's kind of like how i feel now that i've been skydiving; everything feels so dull compared to signing your life away, and nothing - i repeat, nothing - is as thrilling as that split second you find yourself pulling your shoot in hopes that it'll open or the free fall that comes seconds before it.

isn't life like a roller coaster sometimes? for me it is, any ways. maybe you guys are all on the ground eating a funnel cake while i'm getting free chiropractic work on the mimebuster, i don't know. (SERIOUSLY, THOUGH - THOSE WOODEN ROLLER COASTERS ARE CHEAPER THAN A CHIROPRACTOR.)

any ways.

i learned something valuable about myself after the montreal team left: it's really important for me to have something to look forward to after a really high high. (a friend of mine recommended that, actually.)

my heart was so full that week. i was living my dream. hanging out with youth in my favourite city. bridging the gap between my students and those stricken with poverty. using my gifts. i seriously could have come home, did my laundry, and started all over again. i felt so alive.

and then, after a day of rest (that's all i really need physically), i felt the opposite; bored and purposeless. i had way too much time on my hands and 'nothing' to do with it.

the vortex. i was on the vortex.

but here's the thing. while the vortex may not be as appealing as the leviathan (or half as cool), it's still in the same park; a really, really, fun park. with cotton candy and funnel cake.

life can seem dull, sure. one day, things are great, and the next, not so great. one week, we have a lot going on, and the next, not enough. but it's all a gift.

i had to remind myself of this when depression creeped in out of nowhere, knocked me off of my feet, and left me feeling suffocated and gasping for air this week. (only those who suffer will know that i'm not trying to be dramatic here.)

but, thanks to God's love and compassion and my ability to scrape myself out of bed, have a bath, and attend an easter dinner i was invited to (which just so happened to be a surprise (early) birthday party for me also!), i'm not only breathing again, but i'm buckled in in anticipation of what's ahead: my quarterly review at work, teaching our alpha course on wednesday in regent park and a pre-trip workshop on homelessness to a group of students in elmvale (does anyone even know where this is? j/k) after that. and then it's my birthday. lots going on. the leviathan.

but don't worry - i learned my lesson last time around and booked a short two and half day trip to ottawa right after that, because, well, you gotta have things to look forward to, and as i was reminded of last week, family time is good for the soul.

Monday, March 26, 2018

i'll never forget it as long as i live.

i was at counselling at lakeshore camp when the speaker called us up to pray for students who needed healing. i felt uncomfortable - the topic of healing made me feel that way back then (and sometimes still does) - but i had no choice; i was wearing a lanyard that read 'counsellor', and, well, he called up all of the counsellors.

i looked across the altar and felt drawn to this particular youth, went up to him, asked him what he needed healing from and he said his feet. curious as to what was wrong with them, i asked him, and he told me that he had flat feet and that they were very, very painful.

so i got down on the ground, laid hands on his feet and prayed with as much faith as i could muster up in that moment.

next thing you know, his foot re-formed in my hand, and truthfully, as much as i believed in what i was praying (and even more than that, who i was praying to), i didn't really expect that, and so i jumped back in disbelief.

next, we had this particular student stand in a bucket of water and then step onto some paper towel. had his feet have still been flat, his whole foot would have shown up on the paper towel, but it didn't; only his heel and the part where his toes started did! low and behold, he was, in fact, 'heeled' (sorry, had to), and i will never forget it for as long as i live!

but, there have been times where i have prayed for someone to be healed and have seen zero results, too. my parents being two of them. i prayed many prayers that my dad would get better and that the cancer that my filled my mom's body would disappear, and i prayed with a faith that once saw a healing occur, because healings occur.

but sometimes, they don't. at least, in the ways we expect them to. and i wrestled through this while i visited my uncle garry this past week who is fighting cancer and severe pneumonia simultaneously.

but even still, i couldn't stop thinking about the fact that he has outlasted every single one of his immediate family members (his wife, son, and brothers) and how broken his heart has been since. the most important healing is one of the heart and soul, after all. and sometimes, if i'm being honest, this changes how i pray.

jesus walked the earth healing people. he had the power to do that, and i believe he still does. but he also healed people's souls, and hearts, and promised that if we believe in him, and follow him, that there will come a day when we will receive our healing in full.

until then, although i do believe in physical healing (after all, i saw this happen right before my very own eyes) and will continue to pray for this when asked to/feel led to, i will continue to pray that God does what he does best: be present; that he would show up and surround my uncle in his hospital room and give him peace, be close to my sister as she searches for her lost pet, protect my friend and the beautiful baby in her womb as she's on bed rest, heal my friend's heart as she mourns the loss of her mom, give my family in regent park the strength to keep going, and the list goes on.

whatever that looks like for you today, whatever you're going through, physical or not, and in whichever way you need him to be, my prayer for YOU today is this: that Jesus would be near.

AMEN.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

i opened my inbox only to find an email that the executive director of montreal's YFC wrote as he was watching the students present their trip to those who weren't there, himself included. the email read: "thank you for your investment in our kids' lives and the example you were to them. you inspired them to live differently and see people differently."

my heart couldn't help but explode.

you see, i don't always get to see the fruit (result) of a trip like this. don't get me wrong; i spend almost 24 hours with the students while they're here. i get to be a part of their learning experience and process and witness (some of) the change they experience, but my 'job, with the exception of a few follow up phone calls/meetings and the few relationships i may carry on, ends when their trip does. so hearing about the evidence of change in the youths' lives, from someone who wasn't on the trip especially, is invaluable to my team and i.

so many people are affected by a trip like this: the students, the team as a whole, the organizations that work day in and day out to make a difference in the heart of our city, our friends on the margins of society, and those who have the honour of leading such a trip, including myself.

below are some of the students' comments taken from their end-week evaluations:

"i learned in an entirely new way that there is really no difference between the "haves" and "have nots", homeless or housed."

"being with different kinds of people has stretched me in positive ways that i'm thankful for. simply learning how to interact with everyone has been a unique experience as oppose to just "sticking to your comfort zone."

"i learned how to manage people when they were upset, and to understand my teammates better. i realize that God has a plan growing everywhere, you just have to look for it. and i am also a bit more compassionate."

"i learned that humility, patience, perseverance and compassion can make so much difference"

"i learned to be more patient with people and i felt more connected with God while i was on this trip"

"i felt God's presence when certain people were telling their stories."

"God taught me to be a more Godly leader."

"i've never been this happy"

"the world is so much bigger than myself and problems beyond my capability to fix, but by helping the world one problem and one person's life at a time, i can make a difference with help from the Lord"

"personally, i grew a lot. i learned to show how i really feel when i usually throw those feelings out. i feel that my relationship with God improved immensely".

"i learned that numbers (in regards to an issue) doesn't mean as much as i thought it did. you need to think about who the people on the street really are and remember that they have a story".

"i grew in my faith in my Heavenly Father. right before the trip i was really stressed about it, but i learned to pray when my team and i were walking in the city. i prayed about anything. i learned to put a smile on any ways - even when i was feeling sick or hurting inside because of what happened right before the trip"

... and the list goes on. (a list i will continue to read and reflect on.)

so, as you can see from the above comments, we can (thankfully) check off every goal we had for this trip:

- the team was able to connect with one another and appreciate their team (and the importance of teamwork) more.

- they realize how life-giving and 'easy' serving others can be and how it helps us take our focus off of our own problems and life (even if it is temporary) - see last comment.

- they grew in humility and compassion.

- they acknowledge that while 'homelessness and poverty' is a mass city-wide (and global) issue, it is made up of unique stories and individual people.

- and most importantly, students experienced (and connected to) God (something that isn't forced by any nature, but naturally happens on a trip like this), grew in their relationship with Him and were moved by His desire for us to love and serve Him and others!

and as for me, i did, too.

i'm still processing what i experienced personally, but i will say this: i am even more confident of the call on my life now that i have seen a seed that the Lord planted in my heart seven years a go come to fruition.

to every single one of you who have given to me and/or 'my' ministry, pray(ed) for me, or sent me an encouraging text or email throughout the duration of the trip, thank you for planting seeds with me! i couldn't have done it without you!

"i planted the seed, apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow". (1 corinthians 3:6)