Thursday, December 20, 2012

below is a repost [i think] of a blog i wrote just after my 31st birthday almost two years ago. i most certainly needed this reminder today, and decided to post it just in case some of you do, too.'s been said that the amount of blows it takes you to blow out your birthday candles equals the amount of boyfriends you have. i should know; i was reminded of this a few weeks ago when i celebrated one. 31 candles are a lot to blow out, i'll have you know, but juggling four boyfriends is much harder.

okay, okay. i don't really have four boyfriends. in fact, i don't even have ... one.

that's right. do the math. 31, and single. alone. by myself. table for one. riding solo. i'm riding solo, i'm riding solo. [this musical interlude has been brought to you by jason derulo].

each year it seems as though more and more people jump on the "we need to find paula a husband" bandwagon. it's not uncommon for me to get an email stating that the sender is 'praying that God sends me a man soon', nor is it uncommon for someone to come up to me and boldly say such things to my face. now, let it be known that i LOOOOOOOVE men [a lot actually - especially when they look like derek morgan from criminal minds or the mcdreamy/steamy combo from greys], but i can't help but wonder something - what do people see when they look at me? someone who is ... missing something?

because that's not what i see. i see a young woman who has traveled the world. i see a 31 year old who lives a life of purpose. i see someone who is about to see yet another dream come true. i see beauty. confidence. humour. compassion. life. and the list goes on.

who do you see when you look in the mirror? do you simply see a role you play? a wife to ____? mom to _____? nurse? teacher etc? is your identity attached to who you know or what you are? or does it go much deeper than that?

you see, as a woman, the world would tell us that by the time we reach a certain age that we should have a husband, a kid or two [or more if we're crazy - just kidding nic], an ability to cook, bake, sew, whatever; and a green thumb to boot. i, on the other hand, am husband-less and kid-less. i can't hem a pair of pants for the life of me, and you will never - i repeat never - see me spending time in a garden. and you know something? i'm okay with that.

now don't get me wrong, it's perfectly fine to be a wife, or a mom, or to fill any [or every] single one of the roles mentioned in this blog for that matter, but take it from me, ladies - IT'S EQUALLY OKAY if you don't!

here's the thing - and i want you to catch this: our identity shouldn't be found in who we know or what we do.

because truth be told, when everything is stripped away, it's not going to matter whose wife you are, how many kids you have, what you do for a living, or how well you can sing, cook a meal, or whatever else you take pride in. all that's going to matter is who you belong to and who are you are a result: a loved and cherished daughter of the king!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

i was reading through my journal a while a go and got a chuckle out of the below entry, dated november 18, 2005.

"if life could look the way i want it to, i would be married with three kids [and pregnant with my fourth]. i would be living in a perfect size home for the soon-to-be six of us with a beautiful backyard. i would take the kids to the park today, and then come home to write my husband a nice "thanks for working today" letter to read before his nice home cooked [swiss chalet] meal, because chicken is healthy and sooooooooo darn good. [i will cook some nights, too]. then i would tuck all three of my beautiful children [remember - the fourth is still in my belly with the chicken] in bed and read them robert munch's book, "i will love you forever". after that, i would spend the evening talking to my hubby, asking him how his day was and filling him in on mine [and all the married people laugh], but that is what life would look like today if it could".


my how things change.

i still love swiss chalet, writing letters to my future husband is a given, and i will most definitely read the greatest book ever written to my kids before bed, but the rest of it makes me laugh. a lot. i couldn't picture myself being a stay at home mom, let alone be expecting my fourth child. or my first for that matter.

life never goes the way we want it to, or the way we think we do, does it?

"we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps" [proverbs 16:9]

Saturday, December 8, 2012

yesterday was the perfect day.

i woke up at my BFF's house and had the chance to hug her and her precious kids before they started their day. from there, i met a friend at starbucks and we talked, and laughed. a lot.

i finished my fifth book in five weeks.

three of the most solid men in my life [and the cutest kid] dropped by to catch up.

my sister picked me up, we went grocery shopping, and my favourite yogourt was on sale [it's the small things in life that matter] =)

i opened up my email only to find an e-transfer from a friend out west who wanted to encourage me to keep on loving. i felt [and feel] so blessed by her investment in my life and by a God who continually reminds me that he has my back in this season of waiting.

i get home to my first christmas card from a friend who wanted to remind me that she is thinking of me on the first christmas without my dad.

then i get a text from my BFF that put a smile on my face and filled my heart with gratitude.

with that, i went to bed with the hugest smile on my face, thanking God for a great day and knowing i had something to look forward to when i woke up today.

i live a rich life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

1) words have power. don't wait until a funeral to say what you wanted to say. say it today. encourage someone. honor each other. love one another.

2) there are always things you can do during a season of 'waiting'. for me, i write letters. i wrote eleven yesterday [not including the emails i sent out] and have a list of people to write to before my head hits the pillow tonight. we all have something to give, and people around us who need what we have to offer.

3) there are two 'types' of people in this world, if you will: life-suckers, and life-givers. be a life-giver, and surround yourself with them.

4) christmas isn't about presents and january doesn't have to be about debt. first of all, let it be said that i am in no way shape or form against presents. i think gifts are a great way to show the people in your life that you love them. but they're not the only way. so if you're like me and you're low on cash, don't feel bad. just be creative and 'present'. love doesn't have a pricetag. [and that goes for those of you who do have money also].

5) read number one again and go do it =)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

today marks month 11 without my dad, and quite honestly, i'm dreading the next four weeks. i'm having a hard time getting into the christmas spirit knowing that he won't be with us this year, and i sure as heck don't want to face that dreadful day that follows four days later.

last christmas was beautiful. it was round two of 'operation spoil our parents', an idea my siblings and i came up with to bless my mom and dad's socks off. i'll never forget the look on my dad's face when he saw us pull out another gift, and another. he just kept smiling, shaking his head, and saying, "this is too much".

or the joy he had when we were all together eating his favourite brushetta. "i'm going to eat this on boxing day", he said. having been sick for as long as i can remember, food was one of the only things that brought him joy in life at this point. food and family. and he had both of those right in front of him that day.

if i close my eyes i can picture his face when he opened the rascal flatts CD that he wanted, and can hear him talking about his favourite song [i still can't listen to it]. i could barely keep the tears back when my mom told me he spent his last day listening to the CD over and over, right before they went out to his favourite restaurant, east side marios, with the gift card we gave him. it was a perfect day. perfect except i wasn't there to share it with him; and oh how i wish i could've been there to share it with him.

he was a real trooper that man. he endured several heart attacks and surgeries, a stroke, kidney failure, the loss of his legs and his independence, and the list goes on. yet he kept going, inspiring me each and every day. inspiring me today.

love you and miss you, dad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

i, paula castrucci, have a 'thorn in my flesh', which just so happens to come in the form of a disease by the name of 'premenstrual dysphoric disorder' [sorry, fellas, i promise not to get graphic].

in grade eight, i had my first bout of depression. i had no idea where it came from either. i was in the running for female athlete of the year [at 32, i still 'got game'] and an english award, i had friends, good grades, you name it; but all of a sudden, this 'thing' hit me. i went from feeling happy to hopeless, and though i didn't know it at the time, deeply depressed, which seemed to be a monthly battle from there on in.

fast forward to my 27th year. i was living in edmonton at the time and hit my deepest bout of depression yet. after spending four very long days in bed [and 15 years battling this demon], i decided that i needed to get some help. days later, i began tracking my moods on a calendar.

if i had a good day, i drew a happy face. a normal day, a normal [?] one, and when i felt depressed, i drew a sad face. it didn't take me very long to realize that these episodes were surrounding my period. [again, sorry, fellas].

so i did what any one of us would do: i googled it [which i don't highly recommend as it usually leads you to a hypochondriac who convinces you that you have some form of cancer]. i very quickly came across a disease called 'premenstrual dysphoric disorder', and within minutes, i had the answer to a question i was asking myself all of these years: "what the heck is wrong with me?"

i took my findings to my doctor, was diagnosed with PMDD almost immediately, and put on a mild anti-depressant for six months to help me cope.

in addition to this, i started seeing a counselor and began looking at ways in which i could combat this battle of mine every month.

six months later, as mentioned above, i was taken off of the anti-depressants and began fighting this demon with the tools i had been given through counseling. i had good days and bad days. i lost some friends, and quality of life, but i finally came to a point years later where i could function during these two weeks each month, even though my emotions were still too intense for me at times.

thankfully, my last bout of depression was august 2010 [right before i moved to ottawa]. I WAS FINALLY FREE AND HAD NEVER FELT BETTER. i felt content. happy. fulfilled even.

then my dad passes away. add that to the fact that i was working for an unhealthy organization, and BOOM - all of a sudden my emotions become even more amplified and i no longer [feel like i] know how to cope with life. and soon after, the depression episodes reappear.

i withdrew. cried myself to sleep more often than not. felt hopeless. suicidal even. i tried everything. praying. reading my bible. all the things people in the church have told me i need to do in times like this. only nothing seemed to be working. life just kept getting darker and darker.

so a few months ago, i went back to the doctor, got some meds, and put myself on a ten week waiting list for cheap counseling, because, friends - if you get anything out of this blog, get this - there is no shame in needing [or getting] help.

do i feel better? not always. more hopeful? sometimes. am i bored stiff and discouraged because my job prospects keep falling through and i seem to be living the same day over and over? most definitely. but do i think that this will always be the case? not at all. i will get better.

and so will you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

i've been laying in bed the past few days trying to come up with words to describe the battle i've been fighting, but even my prayers have come up empty. please excuse my feeble attempts at processing my thoughts as i sit here and type.

i think the biggest thing is how lonely and out of place i've felt here lately. i've become extremely frustrated with north american culture and our inability to put our phones down for ten minutes and carry a meaningful conversation, and our need to spend 1000's of dollars on stuff that moth and rust destroy, when people in our own backyard are dying without the bare necessities. [ranting done]. i feel like God is doing a deep work in me when it comes to living a simple life [even more simple than i am now] and giving me a deeper love for the poor, but with that comes frustration with the culture we live in. as a result, i find myself constantly fighting against being judgemental towards people who 'don't get it'. forgive me. [disclaimer: in no ways am i saying that it's wrong to work hard, make money, and spend it on nice stuff - that's not my point].

my heart aches for the church and longs for the type of community i read about in acts so bad! i was reading a book about the types of pathways that connect people to God and according to the author's theories - which i found very accurate - i was designed to learn relationally, which means i learn about christ and draw closest to him through deep, meaningful relationships. on the contrary, i feel empty and unfulfilled without them.

the crappy thing is, my love languages are the two that people have the hardest time giving: words and quality time, so i'm continually battling feeling unloved no matter which approach others use to show me otherwise. [if you have no idea what i'm talking about, you should check out dr. gary chapman's book 'the five love languages'; it may change your life].

more thoughts later ... maybe.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

believe it or not, i'm a sucker for documentaries. i love learning about creation, social issues, and people. give me an interesting documentary and its' images will be engrained in my mind for as long as i live.

take terry fox for example. i've known about his story for as long as i can remember, but something stuck out to me as i watched a documentary on him a few years back.

terry got tired. here he was running across canada with a wooden leg and cancer in his lungs. sweat poured down his face. fear could be seen in his eyes. yet he had a cause; a focus, and he chose to keep his eyes on that with every step.

but his cause wasn't all that kept him going.

people did.

just when he wanted to give up, someone gave him a pat on the back, yelled a "we believe in you, terry or a "keep going, you're going to make it!" from the sidelines.

this is what my recent trip to kansas was for me; a much needed reminder that i, paula castrucci, am believed in.

prior to my trip, i was fighting discouragement and battling depression, caused by none other than the time of the month, the fact that i am unemployed and have far too much time to think, and the fact that i have yet to find peace in light of my dad passing away almost a year a go. i woke up the morning of my flight not having the energy to get to the bus station to ensure i made it in time for my flight, but something in me told me to get up and go any ways. and am i ever glad i did.

after a long day of travel, i was greeted at the airport by some of the world's greatest youth equipped with welcome signs and hugs. within seconds, i felt an enormous amount of love, which carried me through the night, week, and is carrying me through the unknown even now.

i can't tell you how special my family in kansas made me feel. from home cooked meals, to starbucks, to warm hospitality, i was well taken care of. not to mention the fact that the student ministry there blessed me with several books and resources for ministry, which included a whole bible commentary set; an investment that has left me speechless to this day.

prior to the trip, i didn't have much fight left in me and had lost my focus. just when i wanted to quit i heard a "come on, paula - you can do this. im fighting with you" coming from the sidelines. a few people showed genuine concern for me. some embraced me. others prayed, and all encouraged.

it may have been the documentary that first reminded me of the crucial role that those cheering terry on from the sidelines played in his journey, but it was those cheering me on this past week that reminded me of the crucial role that you and i have in each other's lives today.

who is spurring you on? who are you spurring on?

"by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. i’m off and running, and i’m not turning back. so let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. if any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it" [philippians 3:14-16 MSG]

Saturday, October 20, 2012

today, i'm thankful for a God who stands by His promise to take care of me, and for all of the people in my life who remind me of this very fact each and every day.

i haven't had a paycheque since august 10th, but 'somehow' i haven't gone without.

i had three coffee dates yesterday, and managed to only spend $1.35. my caffeine intake was taken care of by some of my most generous friends. thank you, cliff, sandy, and lisa for giving me the most precious gift: your time.

then i get a text from my sister saying that she doesn't have any work for me to do, but she wants to buy me any groceries i need. so i sent her a list: chocolate soy milk and bananas for my shake, and mini wheats 'or any healthier cereal that's on sale'. i get home not only to find these three things, but a costco sized box of my favourite - and very necessary - mints =) [let it be known that i am also very grateful to have a roof over my head and a comfy bed to rest mine]. thank you, robin.

i desperately needed some medicine this week [plan to blog on that later] and my family took care of it without hesitation. thank you, robin and mom.

then i got an email from a friend i haven't seen in years stating that she wants to email me some money on monday, which will prevent my phone from getting cut off ... to the day. thank you, maria.

and let's not forget monday when my good friend decided to take me out to buy me some make-up and hair dye so i could feel good about myself, and then proceeded to tell me that she put some money aside to take me clothes shopping, too. thank you, vanessa.

i'm thankful for a bff who constantly feeds me the most kick ass meals, listens to me, and speaks truth into my life when i can't find it myself. thank you, sarah.

and a friend who i haven't seen since high school, who took me out for lunch this week and is paying me to help her run a kids/jr. high program tonight at a local salvation army church. thank you, emily.

and, and ... the list goes on.

how could i not be thankful? i am well taken care of!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

facebook can be such a poor excuse for friendship, a time waster, and a place where one can either a) make their lives seem more exciting than they really are b) hide behind their feelings and/or c) gauge their popularity according to the number of 'likes' and comments they get on a status or photo.

a) no one's life is as good as they make it appear in social media. this is why i *used to* use my statuses as a way of letting those who care know exactly how i'm feeling - the good, the bad, and the ugly. [i was intentional in including the ugly for this purpose]. life sucks sometimes; it can be hard, disappointing, and painful, and we need to stop treating our facebook like high school reunions [putting on our best outfits, rehearsing 'what we do for a living', getting our best pics ready etc], and stop - hear this - comparing our lives with that which we see on our home page.

b) like texting, people use facebook to communicate things they don't have the guts to say in person. this isn't healthy and can be quite damaging.

c) people often comment on the ridiculous amount of likes and comments i get on my facebook. one of my friends actually teases me and says that i could get 100 likes on a status that was as stupid as "i like eyeballs" [that's his exact example in fact], and that he would get less than five on one that informed his friends of something exciting going on in his life. though neither are entirely true, i can see why this would bother someone if they 'weren't getting any likes'. but please - hear this from me, one who wrestles with this on both ends sometimes - the amount of likes/comments you get doesn't accurately measure how much you are cared for! [think about it. how much effort does it take for one to press 'like' any ways?]

i took my facebook down for four days last week and couldn't have been more at peace about it. i had a considerable amount of extra time on my hands, and i felt less miserable on account that i, too, am guilty of falling in the 'comparison trap', exhibit letter 'a' above, at times.

in all honesty, i didn't want to reactivate my account in fear that i would fall into my old facebook habits, but my mom asked me to, and i quickly realized how many important contacts i would lose. so i made boundaries instead.

i will no longer use my statuses to let people know how i am doing. my close friends and family will know how i am, those who follow me on twitter [which i use as a mini blog only], and those who choose to read this blog.

i will no longer scroll through the home page. there are a select few that i will check in with once in a while, but other than that, i will be using facebook for personal communication only. if you're getting married, have kids, get a new job, whatever, and you want me to know, tell me =)

and last but not least, i will continue to reach out to my friends and family beyond facebook, and continue to call people on their birthdays instead of joining the majority of the population who think that writing a measly 'HBD' on someone's wall is a sufficient way to celebrate the life of a friend.

will you join me?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

i don't remember 'skinny' being found in proverbs 31.

listen fellas, i know that you're 'designed' to go after that which is appealing to the human eye, but beauty is fleeting. one day even your lady - yes your lady - will have wrinkles, stretch marks, or both, and you'll be 'stuck' with her ... personality.

now, let it be said, in no ways am i naive; i know that there are many women out there who are thin and beautiful according to the world's standards AND have a great personality, but there are a lot who don't. i cannot tell you how many of my guy friends [or youth that i 'work' with] settle for a woman who abuses/controls them simply because she is thin/pretty, or because he is loyal and/or comfortable.

men: know your worth.

and ladies, we're not exempt from our standards, either. far too many of us settle for someone who treats us like crap also, just so we can feel beautiful, valued, and worth something.

ladies, know your worth.

friends, male and female alike, you are far too valuable to allow someone to mistreat you, use you, and abuse you. instead, find someone who loves you, values you, and treasures you ... because you ARE treasured ... and refuse to settle until you do.

know your worth.

Friday, October 5, 2012

have you ever pulled an all nighter? sure you have. initially, you are pumped and full of energy. 10:00? the adrenaline kicks in. midnight? hanging in there. but from that point on, you're starting to wonder if this was really a good idea. somehow you make it to 3:00a.m. [are you insane?], but by then, your pillow is looking more fluffy than the night before. you're exhausted. can you make it? you sure don't feel like it!

BUT you know that you know that you know that if you don't give up, if you just hang on for those last three hours, that a new day will come. YOU ARE GOING TO SEE THE SUN!!!!!! so what do you do? do you give up and crawl into your bed? or do you continue on with what you set out to do, which in this case, is make it through the night.

the last few days have felt like '3:00a.m' days for me. days where i've felt as though i was surrounded by darkness. sure, i started this month off all excited and pumped up on adrenaline [like 10:00p.m. at an all nighter], but as the hours passed, quitting seemed like the way to go. did i? no. i never will. but did i consider it? you bet i did.

but then i was reminded of a verse in psalms and it all made sense to me.

"my soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning"
- psalm 130:6

more than watchmen wait for the morning = waiting for the sun to come up when you're pulling an all nighter.

in the same way, we are to wait for the Lord.

dark times will come. you'll have days where you feel depressed, angry, whatever. sometimes you're going to want to's inevitable. but in the same way that you know you are going to see the sun if you stay up all night, you need to know that God is going to show up for you in even the darkest of seasons. all it takes is for you to hang on those extra few hours...that extra hour...

because if you do...


Thursday, October 4, 2012

a few things.

1) my family and friends are of utmost importance to me, and i like to think that i spend all of my energy showing them that.

2) i hate masks. i wear my emotions on my sleeve and i think everyone an extent.

3) silent gratitude is of no use to anyone. nor are the speeches that are spoken at funerals. in other words, those people you love...tell them how much they mean to you today. you may never get another chance to.

4) you can do anything you want to do. don't listen to the critics. they don't see all of your potential, and if they did, they would try and snuff it from you. words have power. use yours wisely.

5) i fail to celebrate how far i've come sometimes. instead, i spend most of my time beating myself up over the flaws i still have. today, however, i choose to think about how far i've come. you do the same.

and last and certainly not least, jesus is everything - and i mean everything. people come and go. jobs aren't permanent. money sucks. having none sucks more. and things don't last forever. but jesus? he never changes. he's solid. constant. sure.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

'give us this day our daily bread'

this part of the Lord's prayer has never been as real to me as it has been the past few days.

i'm currently unemployed/in a season of transition as most of you know, and running out of money fast.

in fact, when i woke up this morning, i had just under $4 to my name.

so here i was praying as i was helping my friend paint her house. praying for my friends who are going through the thick of it, and praying that God would provide the money i needed today for bus tickets and laundry.

next thing you know, i receive a $50 e-transfer from a friend this afternoon because it, as she put it, was on her heart to do so.

then i get home only to find out that my sister came home with enough loonies for seven loads of laundry. BOOM.


how often do we exchange the assurance that GOD WILL BE EVERYTHING WE NEED HIM TO BE TODAY for unnecessary worry about tomorrow?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

my heart is heavy.

my sister and her fiance are currently sitting at the bedside of al's mom, moments after taking her off of life support. just last week, she lost her mom, his grandma.

a family member of mine was just diagnosed with cancer. i can't give much more detail than that at this point, but some people just get dealt a crappy hand in life.

one of my friends just lost her dad, and weeks later, finds herself in a hospital each day fighting for her daughter's life.

another friend is beyond stressed at work, another is going through a messy divorce, and the list goes on.

but here's the thing, friends. we weren't meant to face these things alone. there are far too many 'one another' verses in the bible to make me believe otherwise.

too often we fail to reach out because we're uncomfortable, or 'don't know what to say', when really a lot of the times there isn't anything we can say.

but goodness gracious, there has to be something we can do.

pick up a phone. send an email. show up. cook a meal. clean a house. watch a movie.

just ... do something.

our family and friends needs us. your family and friends need YOU.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

fall has got to be my favourite season hands down. the humidity is replaced with fresh air, the leaves turn into 50 shades of red [not grey], and i get to wear mittons, yes mittons, only to be taken off to enjoy an ever so delicious pumpkin spice latte. [okay, maybe a few pumpkin spice lattes]. i love fall.

whether you're a huge fan of summer or not, there's something to be said about change.

you see, each season has it's purpose. winter exists to keep the emergency rooms busy with frost-bite victims. summer exists so that families can spend more time with each other [or their apple products] and get a nice tan. spring brings new life, and fall keeps us thankful for ours. each season has its purpose.

and so does the one i'm about to enter.

as most of you know, i just spent a week just outside of chicago scoping out a job that has been offered to me. below is the journey of how i got there. straight out of my journal, in fact.

i feel kind of excited today and trust that i will be taken care of if i make this move. it's been two years in the making, after all.

being involved in oasis youth ministry brought healing to me and sparked my interest in youth ministry again, which is where this whole process 'started', i think.

i felt the need to take a step towards getting back into ministry after second cup, which led me to CSM, followed by a series of events that led me to one voice one team. all the while, God was moving me towards youth pastoring. but where? i exhausted all of my options at this point.

scott contacted me about a youth position in january just to get a feel as to where i was at, and to'plant a seed', as he says. knowing i had a contract to fulfill until june 30th, i put it on the back burner.

may approaches and i hear from him again. only this time he seems more serious, and i'm at a place in my life where i can start considering such an offer. after all, it lines up with everything i felt God was speaking to me over the past few years, and the timing couldn't be better.

a few months later, i'm sitting in second cup with a spiritual mother type figure, telling her how i feel like i'm in a season of transition and i how i can't shake this chicago offer. 'coincidentally', i get home only to find an official "i want you to be my youth pastor" invite.

the rest is history, really. i told scott that there would be three things that need to happen in order for this to work, one of which was a pre-acceptance visit, which is why i flew down there this past week.

my observation? i couldn't ask for a better church and staff to be a part of, so i accepted the position effective january, providing two things work out in the meantime: 1) i get a visa. 2) finances 'fall' into place. in the meantime, i will be looking for a job here in port credit, studying, reading, and doing all that i can to prepare myself for the journey i'm about to embark on.

i don't have a huge booming voice telling me that i need to move to chicago and pastor, but what i do have is a lot of 'gentle pushes' that way. and so i sit here excited, choosing to trust in the God that put this desire in my heart in the first place. what more can one do, really?

"trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path" [proverbs 3:5-6]

Thursday, September 13, 2012

today was like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. wait, that doesn't make sense. a ray of sunshine in a cloudy week? a bright day? a good day?

whatever. i liked today =)

first, let it be said that waking up at my BFF's house is an automatic plus. being able to cuddle with her adorable kids, one of which greeted me with a hug and a sweet, "i like when you're here", melts my heart, and getting to squeeze them tight as they walk out the door for school melts my heart even more. i love them to pieces. they're adorable, yes, but i can't help but love them simply because they're a part of my friend.

from there i went and hung out with my dear friend, vanessa, who, after spending a good chuck of her morning with me, handed me $100 as we departed. i nearly cried as she had no idea the extent of stress i was under just trying to figure out how i was going to pinch my almost-extinct pennies and try and make them last this week.

then tonight, right after i conveniently found out that i am NOT being paid for the time i spent in honduras, i get a surprise package delivered to my door. and by package i mean my sister's sweet friend [who will remain nameless to protect his identity. you're welcome, ______] ;) [no not THAT kind of package].

this won't come as a surprise to those of you who stalk my facebook statuses [hahaha just kidding], but as if my sister's friend's presence wasn't enough, he came bearing gifts: a letter and journal, $50 canadian, $26 american, and an old navy gift card, all of which were laced with gratitude and encouragement.

this may seem like a weird thing to say after writing five paragraphs, but his kindness, as well as the kindness of others, has left me ... speechless ... and once again in awe of God's provision in my life.

sleep well tonight, friends. i know i will.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

sometimes all you have to hang on to is the promise that things will look up. they always do, after all.

i've been in this 'weird space' ever since i stepped foot on the plane to honduras. and by weird i mean weeeeird. it's as if any confidence i had in myself [and God through me] vanished, leaving me battling a ton of self-hate and feeling unworthy of anyone's love.

not that i battle such thoughts often, but when i do, i'm usually good at combating them. but this time seemed to be different.

i felt angry during honduras, as if the world owed me something. i was extremely sick all week as mentioned in a previous blog, which i'm sure factored into the way i felt, but i remember sitting there and becoming bitter about 'how much i give' and how i always seem to 'get nothing in return', and sooner than later, i became bitter at the fact that i seem to have to initiate all most of of relationships in my life.

i started looking at people - my friends mainly - through this bitter lens, causing me to become blind to the ways in which they would try and reach out.

and sadly, i carried this attitude home with me.

after a disagreement with a friend [and my brother's girlfriend], i came to the conclusion that i, paula castrucci, am unworthy of love. [RIDICULOUS, i know].

but after a good cry last night, some of my walls came crumbling down, and thankfully, i am one step closer to believing the truth, and walking in it once again.

because the truth is, i am loved. the truth is, i'm surrounded by many - and i mean many - people who love me and who serve as a constant reminder that 'love is kind'.

i came home from honduras with $60 to my name [which quickly went down to $40 after a quick grocery run]. knowing that i have bills to pay and a wedding to be in this weekend, i began to feel overwhelmed.

next thing you know, i receive an e-transfer for $50 in my inbox from a friend in BC who wanted to remind me that i am loved. then my mom came and insisted [in true motherly fashion] that i accept the five $20 bills she tried to slip me...then my younger sister bought me the shoes i need for my friend's wedding...then my older sister whipped out her credit card without even thinking twice and covered my $230 seamstress bill [losing weight is costly!]...then my best friend buys me dinner, my favourite mints, and bus tickets...and the list goes on.

the truth is, love is kind, and i am loved.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

aside from beaming with pride as i watched my students wholeheartedly serve the people in honduras, only three things kept consuming my mind during the duration of the trip: the definition of poverty, my purpose in being there, and how weary i'm feeling in life. below are three journal clippings to explain these three things further.


"being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, i think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat" [mother teresa]

poverty, to me, has nothing to do with money, or lack of possessions, how most would define it. throughout all of my traveling and working with 'the homeless', i have come to learn that the 'poorest' people [by this definition] are among the richest i know. owning possessions doesn't make one rich, love does, and love 'they' have, and love 'they' give.


i'm going through some weird emotions and can't remember if i felt this way during other trips or not. none-the-less, i must walk through them as if this is the first time i'm experiencing them.

one youth leader asked us the most difficult question today; the dreaded "why are you here?" question, which is fair. i'm not sure i have a good or acceptable answer, really. i often fight 'poverty tourism' myself. am i hear to 'look at the poor' and pretend i have a solution? no. am i here with the mindset that we canadians can come in and make a difference in a measly week? not at all. i find myself questioning why i'm here, though. for my students, yes, but it is fair to 'use' honduras to teach them? or is 'getting away' a necessary part of the learning process sometimes? [still wrestling through this]

feeling weary

i'm tired, God. tired of initiating friendships all the time. tired of encouraging people endlessly. just ... tired. but i love you. so i will keep lifting others up.


there you have it. i have so much more on my heart today but perhaps i will keep writing and post that stuff at a later date. thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

i just got off my 56th flight in 11 years and never have i had a more difficult time in another country than i did in honduras. the plane ride there was smooth, and fun, but a day into the trip i became extremely ill [and in no ways do i say that to be dramatic]. i had a high fever, heat stroke, what we'll call traveler's bowel, haha, zero energy and longed for home. i stayed back at the hotel during one of the first mornings to rest, which proved to be beneficial. things seemed to look up that afternoon, only to become sick again hours later. this, although my fever wasn't nearly as bad as it was on day one, seemed to continue all the way through the week until the day before we departed. but i made the most of it; talking to people through the bathroom window, making my team laugh when i could, all the while praying that i could 'hold it all in' during my daily trek up the mountain to run our camp. thankfully, i only had one minor 'accident' while i was there, and aside from a minor cough, a mild fever, and looking like 'ass' as my sister put it, i am home and on the mend.

this trip was different than the others i've been on as i tried to look at it through the eyes of my students. sure, i loved the kids and the people we met, but i spent most of the little energy that i did have on my students. watching them jump right in and pour their hearts into the people in honduras filled my heart with joy. i honestly couldn't be more proud of them.

while we were there, we ran two different camps: justin and nikki's team went to camp hope, and my team went to camp agape. here, we helped run their summer camps, assisting them with anything from crafts to games. the language barrier was definitely... a barrier lol, but it didn't take us long to realize that simple things like hugs, handshakes, funny faces, and smiles can break down any language barrier. love, as we experienced, is a universal language.

the students had the chance to go to the only orphanage in copan ruinas on wednesday morning. from what i hear, it was more heartbreaking than 'the average' orphanage as they lack the help and resources to give these children the care that they need. the children there would literally be sitting in their own urine and feces for hours, if not days. [i'm not kidding], had ring worm, among other things, and were starving for affection. the saddest part? any money that people have donated to that specific orphanage hasn't gone towards the children. the owner, who isn't used to having money, tends to use any money donated for personal use. it's the saddest thing. part of me thinks God protected my heart from going and seeing it that day. i can't even imagine how i would have reacted to any of the above, let alone have been able to keep my english speaking mouth shut if i ran into the owner ;)

through the good moments and heartbreaking ones alike, God was with us throughout the whole trip. we faced a considerable amount of health issues during the week, and a couple of financial roadblocks the last night/morning we were there [about $900 worth], but we pulled through both, AND managed to get out of honduras/el salvador just HOURS before an earthquake - 7.3 on the rictor scale to be exact - followed by a 5.4 aftershock, which was then followed by a tsunami warning. [did i mention how glad i am to be home?] i've had enough excitement for one week =)

for those of you who prayed, sent quick facebook messages or supported the team financially, thank you so much for partnering with me/us on this trip! i can't tell you how grateful i am for your support.

stay tuned for some of my journal clippings and other stuff tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

it's hard to believe that i am a half a sleep away from seeing yet another one of my dreams come true. [a dream that has been ten years in the making].

people keep asking me what it is that my team and i are doing over in honduras this week. my response? we're doing whatever we can to assist the organization down there by serving in whichever capacity they need us to [rocking babies, running a camp etc]. i refuse to board the plane tomorrow morning with the mindset that i'm going to 'change honduras' or 'bring them the help 'that they need' from canada, like some assume i'm going to do.

truth be told, when we go on short term 'mission' trips with that mentality, we fail; when we go with a servant's heart, and with a mindset that we are no better than the people we will serve, we succeed. trips like this should involve partnership.

though i plan on giving my all in all that i do there, with as much heart as possible, my mission lies within the five students that will be coming with us.

i want my students to experience what it's like to live in a different country. i want them to learn that you can lack [and i use lack lightly] all of things that we north americans strive for and be content. i want them to see firsthand how love can break down any language barrier. i want them to see that people, such as myself and my fellow leaders, believe in them and are willing to journey with them through all of the emotions they have felt, and will feel, in this process.

and most importantly, i want them to see that they, no matter where they come from or what their past looks like, can make a difference far beyond the community they live in. because they can.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

behind every great woman is a great family, and a great family i have. [wait - did i just call myself great?] ;) but seriously, my family is one of a kind.

mom, you have the biggest heart out of anyone i have ever met. you are constantly seeking out ways to help the five of us out, and wouldn't hesitate to give us the shirt off of your back if we needed it. [please keep your shirt on] ;) i love you and appreciate your example in my life!

robin, where do i start? for the last year, you have welcomed me under your roof and have provided me with such a loving and peaceful home to come home to. i appreciate your generous heart, but even more than that, i appreciate the person you are beyond that. i love you and am inspired by you!

adam, i love watching you interact with your boys! you are such a fantastic dad! on top of that, you're a hard worker and a fighter. i know this last year hasn't been easy [and that's an understatement], but your ability to persevere is admirable. keep going. i love you.

jeff, i'm so glad that mom and dad didn't take you back the day you came home from the hospital even though i, in my selfish one year old way, wanted that. HA. i love you, bro! you never cease to make me laugh and feel protected. never give up!

amanda, you are so beautiful, and kind. you're the first to drop anything and everything when anyone needs you, and the last to stick around when they do. i am honored to call you my sister! [i love you, too, al!]

dad, when i asked a friend of mine if losing her dad got 'easier' with time, she replied, "it actually gets harder; it's just one more day without him". i couldn't agree with her more. i think of you and miss you daily. wish you were still here! xo

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

i love watching my friends soar.

on friday, i will be saying 'good-bye' to one of my greatest friends as she has accepted a well deserved teacher's position in london, ontario. to say that i will miss her something fierce is an understatement, but i'm certain that she will flourish and excel there. love you so much, junkin.

i spent a week at camp this past week watching a woman of God confidently step into a position that would intimidate most people. there are no words to express how proud i was/am of her and how honored i was/am to learn from her and serve alongside her. geninne, you amaze me! get ready for the ride of your life!

while i was at camp this week, i ran into some friends who have just recently accepted a position in our nation's capital. this isn't my story to share on here, but i can't help but beam with pride just thinking about their next step. ottawa is about to be extremely blessed. you'll kill it there! [you know who you are] =)

as my last blog mentioned, i am about to board a plane with two of my greatest friends and five world changing students:

justin and nikki, i am honored to lead alongside you in this and even more honored to call you my friends. i honestly don't know what i would have done without you by my side this year! looking forward to a lifetime of friendship.

zayne, dion, sara, jade, and amina, we are beyond pumped to get to journey with you in this. we believe in you so much!

and last but not least [for now], my fearless tattered tiaras leader and friend, kim. i can't even tell you how proud i am of who you are and your ability to follow your heart and see your vision through. you set out to impact girls all over this world, and that is exactly what you do. let my life attest to that. [now get off the internet and keep rocking malawi] ;)

"give everyone what you owe him: ... if honor, then honor" [romans 13:7]

more to come at a later date. i could do this all day.

i'm sitting at my local second cup with a perma smile on my face. no really, i can see my reflection on the computer screen as i write this. pretty sure people are staring at me. pretty sure they think i'm emailing a boy man.

but i'm not. i'm blogging [just incase you couldn't tell].

today is what i like to call a PAULAday; a day i try and set aside for me each week. some PAULAdays are spent at home doing absolutely nothing. others are spent catching up on sleep. or biking. you name it. but today? today i blog, and write letters, and fill out applications, and reminisce about the amazing week i just had serving at youth camp.

and today, i dream.

in four days i will be boarding my 53rd and 54th flights in 11 years as a few of my greatest friends and i are taking a team of world changing students with us to honduras. for a decade now, i have been dreaming about taking an unchurched team of students with me on a humanitarian type trip. to think that i'm a few days short from seeing this come to pass leaves me feeling speechless, encouraged, and incredibly honored.

beyond that, some stinkin awesome things are in store for my future, but i will keep those details to 'myself' until i feel confident that i can officially release them.

stay tuned.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

i have to admit, i'm not the biggest fan of the olympics. don't get me wrong; i still find myself having to hold back tears every time i hear our national anthem or olympic theme song, i love the adrenaline rush that comes with watching canada compete for a podium spot, and i absolutely love hearing the stories of both triumph and pain behind every competitor, but sitting in front of the TV for hours wishing i was an athlete isn't as appealing as it once was to me.

what i do love, however, is seeing the athletes' family and friends swell up with pride as they watch their loved one compete. there's something special about having 'fans' around you; people who will be the first out to the track if you fall, and the first ones on their feet cheering you on when you win. i can't think of anything greater than knowing that you're believed in, and that someone, anyone, is proud of your accomplishments and who you've become in the process.

call it selfish, but i found myself longing for someone to tell me that they're proud of me today. oddly, i even prayed for this to happen. and here i am moments from calling it a night when i stumble across a letter a friend wrote me not too long a go.

can you take a wild guess as to what the last three words of the letter were?

you guessed it - 'proud of you'.

even the smallest prayers don't seem insignificant in times like these.

thanks, God.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

i love a good thunderstorm. if i'm safe inside that is. in no ways am i a fan if i'm caught outside carrying an umbrella. or on a bus. or sitting just inside the window on a metal bed frame. or when the lightning is so close that you can read a book even if the power is out. and i'm definitely not a fan when i'm caught off guard.

kind of like the storm we had the other night. i felt myself playing musical chairs on my couch cushions every time the sky lit up. i just kept moving as far away from the window as i deemed necessary. i would have been hugging the end of the couch at the sight of the third bolt if my 21 year old nephew hadn't been sitting there laughing at his jumpy, petrified aunt. [i forgive you, andrew].

sure i was scared, and feared that the beautiful tree that usually prevents my neighbours from seeing me naked would slice in two and land on my roof, or worse, my head. if i'm honest with you, this very thought may have been responsible for keeping me awake most of the night as i sat there wondering if i would ever live to see the morning [dramatic, i know].

but the next morning i woke up and realized something. the storm had passed. the very thing that scared me and made me feel uncomfortable and unsure for hours was out of sight as if it never happened.

can't the same thing be said about the storms we face in life? sure, during them, we feel an array of emotion; we may feel uncertain, confused, scared, powerless, and hopeless, even. we lose sleep wondering if the storm will ever pass, the potential damage it can cost, and sometimes we even wonder if we will make it out alive. but then one day [sometimes even the next day] we wake up, and to our surprise, the sun is shining as if the storm had never passed through.

keep going, friends. this too shall pass.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

things i find going through my head as i search through the profiles on the online dating site i joined last night [yeah - you read that right]:

"um hell no"

"HELLOOOOOOOO ________" [insert their name here]

"you may want to ditch the girl in your profile pic there, playa"

"dude - you're wearing a cheesy jesus shirt and you don't speak english" [true story, though my sister amanda thinks this is the perfect guy for me, because, and i quote, "you'll live a happy life if you don't have to listen to him"].

"65 years old? stop looking at my profile, you pervert"

then there's the guy who 'winked' at me. being curious, i checked out his profile. no pic. no short answers. no thanks. i'm looking for someone who can hold a conversation, not someone who can prove that their eyelids work.

amidst all of the weirdos, however, [and trust me there were many], i happened to find someone who i'm compatible with. sent him a cute email in true paula style, in fact.

stay tuned ... hopefully he hollas for paula ;)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

breakdowns pave the way for 'build ups'

if you couldn't tell by my facebook statuses as of late [i know that chances are this is how you found this blog], i've been having a rough few weeks.

people often tell me how blessed i am, and how they would do anything to have my life. the truth is, i am blessed, and i do have a pretty incredible life, but that doesn't change the fact that i, too, have bad days. weeks even. and struggles. insecurities. and, and, the list goes on.

i merely share this kind of stuff on my facebook/twitter in hopes that 1) people would realize that encouragers need encouragement, too, and 2) people would reach out to me in my time of need.

i find myself quite frustrated at the way the world works when it comes to relationships these days. there used to be a day when we would show up at people's homes and hang out, pick up a phone and call someone, even, dare i say, send letters in the mail. but now? now we [and i'm included in the 'we'] resort to texting, and social media, and think we've done our part when we write a measly 'HBD' on someone's facebook wall for their birthday, instead of celebrating our friends in a more personal way.

i fall into this trap at times, too. sure, i've made some changes in my life and continue to [one being the fact that i will call you on your birthday if i have your number, though i am still adjusting], but i, too, still find myself relying on such shallow means of communicating.

i was so frustrated this week that i wanted to throw my iphone out the window and actually deactivated my facebook account. that, of course, lasted a whole ten minutes as i sat there thinking about all of the people i would no longer have the very contact with that i am complaining about right now =)

but seriously, friends, what has this world come to? it started with an apple, and sadly, appears that the world is falling apart with a different kind of one. [some of you will get that later].

any ways.

so here i was last night, feeling like i hit rock bottom when i started bawling, and talking to a God i know 'gets' me, and walks with me through even the messiest of emotions and pain.

and then the phone rang and i found myself crying and venting to a friend who just sat on the other end and listened to me until i felt a peace come over me; a peace that i had been longing for all week. a peace that allowed me to get the good night's rest that i so desperately needed, and a peace that was waiting for me when i woke up this morning.

breakdowns pave the way for' build ups' indeed.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

i love pauladays.

i'm sitting at my favourite second cup attempting to hammer out this blog, and get some reading done. life has been chaotic as of late - with no hopes of slowing down any time soon - so i made a point of leaving this day blank in my day timer for the sole purpose of catching up on rest and doing what i want to do.

truth is, days like these are essential for my health and well being. some people don't understand this, of course, as life is surrounded by demands and people who will take our last free minute if we let them. but if i've learned one thing in the course of my life, it's this:

you can't take care of others if you don't take care of ... YOU.

Monday, July 16, 2012

a look behind.

it's been a siiiiiick month, if i do say so myself. some highlights:

though i started my 'journey to good health' more than four weeks a go, i'm down 27lbs so far and am sitting under 200 for the first time in my life.

we wrapped up our school programs this year and heard firsthand how our program and leadership had impacted students all across the GTA and hamilton.

i saw God work in people's hearts through a message he laid on my heart for a local young adults group, and a camp, both of which hold a special place in my heart.

aaaand i spent canada day weekend catching up with my friends and family in the nations capital, which made my heart full on a whole other level.

a look at now.

despite all of the victories i just mentioned, i'm having a hard time these days. i feel angry, disappointed, frustrated, miserable, and out of sorts, really. i am, however, determined to make it through and come out on top. and so i press on.

a look ahead.

my work couldn't afford to pay me this week, so i am on, what i like to call, a 'stay-cation'. i'm about to head to second cup to work on a teaching for tonight's honduras meeting before heading to toronto to meet with these world changing students who will be accompanying me next month. i cannot tell you how pumped i am to be a part of such a great team, and process. [dreams come true].

the remainder of the week will be spent helping my friend move, and paint her new place, and hopefully get some rest in there somewhere as my summer is about to kick off full force next week.

on sunday i will be heading north to muskoka woods for the week with twenty jr. high 'all stars' who graduated our S.W.O.L.E. leadership program this year.

the following week, i will be running my second week of camp here in brampton before heading to cobourg to coach youth camp a day later.

and after that, my team and i head to honduras. CRAZY. [for those of you who are itching to help out financially to ensure that these students get on the plane next month, holla at me for the deets].

until next time, friends. xo

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

single mom's camp is my fave.

now, don't get me wrong, i love youth camp. i love being on the 'A team' and dominating in the mud pit [that's right - 'PUT YOUR A'S UP']. i love the services, the games, the energy, the works; but there's just something special about getting to know some of the world's most dedicated moms, and their amazing kids.

i jumped on a train friday morning and headed to whitby where i transfered into a car with my favourite german family to 'begin' our trek to the ottawa valley. my bum was numb [rhyming not intentional] from all of the traveling, but i was quickly distracted at first glance of the beautiful lake that surrounded us.

we kicked off the weekend with a family game show, which was a huge success [even though my team lost] ;)

the following morning i had the honor of hanging out with the youth as their moms enjoyed their service. a few hours later, they found themselves being pampered at our beautifully thought out spa. the ladies looked [and felt] like a million bucks as they made their way to their kids afterwards.

that night we had another service, followed by a bonfire complete with smores and marshmallow fights. [i don't know who could have possibly started such a war?].

sunday morning came faster than we imagined it would, and sunday morning, as it were, would turn out to be one of my favourite ministry moments ever.

within minutes after handing out bibles, i realized that some of these kids had no idea how to navigate their way through one, so i made the quick decision to change up my plans a bit and teach them. i showed them where they could find the table of contents, the book summaries, and index, and then i gave them the opportunity to put what they learned into practice through what we call a 'sword drill'.

one junior high, who will remain nameless, became frustrated and certain that he would never 'get this'. i sat down beside him as the rest of the students were looking up verses, and promised him that i would sit there until he did in fact get it. [there are no words to describe how proud i was of him when he found a verse on his own, and how full my heart was as i walked away from what turned out to me my most rewarding ministry moment to date].

honduras is fast approaching.

it's hard to believe that the team and i will be on a plane in less than two months, with just over half of our funds raised. i, along with my fellow leaders, have had the honor of sharing some pretty fantastic news with a few of our students. what news, you ask? [i'm glad you asked]. one student had her whole trip covered by a stranger in edmonton who couldn't get her off of her heart. another student's trip was covered by a man who used to attend her school ... and the list goes on. one teacher even went as far as to give each student $150 towards their trip.

as much as we celebrate all of the above - and trust me - we celebrate it! - we still have a few students who are struggling to come up with the money to go.

now, understand this. we, as their leaders, are committed to making sure every one of them/us get on that plane in august, but we can't do it without your help.

i have one student who has been picking up extra shifts to make money, only to have to use it to help his mom out with unexpected bills and groceries. i've received several texts from this student, expressing his concerns and asking for help. so i turn to you, my readers.

that being said, it would mean the world to them, and to me,if you would consider helping this student/these students get on that plane. i'll do ANYTHING to ensure that these world changers get this chance of a lifetime. i'll even work for it. [i can cook, bake, and clean toilets like nobody's business, to name a few things].

a look ahead.

this week: i have the honor of speaking at a young adults' group in brampton and at lakeshore camp. [please pray with me].

july: working with youth through camps, and service opportunities/humanitarian work.

august: coaching at youth camp, leaving for honduras, and preparing for programming in the schools for the fall. what what.

and last but not least, as of today, i will be speaking at my second youth retreat in kansas in november. [i could not be more excited, and honored].

honestly, i haven't stopped smiling all day.

"each heart knows its own bitterness, and NO ONE CAN SHARE ITS JOY" [proverbs 14:10].

love to all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

call it selfish, but encouragers need encouragement, too.

in 1 corinthians 15:58 and galatians 6:9, the apostle paul encourages us 'not to become weary in doing good' and to 'always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we know that our labor is not in vain'.

if i can be honest with you, despite the truth found in the above verses, i have felt quite 'weary in doing good' as of late. i find it difficult to keep encouraging, serving, loving, and giving my all when i feel like i don't get much, if anything, in return.

now don't get me wrong, i KNOW that i'm loved; i just long to be a priority in someone's life.

i'm not even necessarily looking to be number one. i know that a lot of the people in my life have kids and families, [and they SHOULD be number one], but i don't get how i can be such a loyal friend [though i'm not perfect], and keep getting shafted, taken advantage of, or treated like a convenience. [the truth is, gentlemen, nice girls finish last, too].

though it amazes me, getting 131 likes on a single facebook status doesn't take away the loneliness that i feel at times. clicking 'like' on a facebook page can be deemed as shallow and takes all of one second. thinking of people and showing them that, however, takes far more time, and sacrifice. is it too much to ask to be thought about once in a while? and to be shown that? shouldn't friendships be a priority in life or do i need to do some re-prioritizing?

please note: this blog was not written to/about anyone specific. i'm 'simply' just wrestling with all of this and find blogging therapeutic.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

it's been an eventful month, to say the least.

where to begin.

1) a look behind.

i had the honor of traveling to whitby to speak at a youth group by the name of the student movement. i walked away with a full heart, a generous offering, and the assurance that whitby is in good hands. solid group. solid night.

the following week i had the chance to partner with an organization called 'souls of the feet' [check them out!] where i had the opportunity to share God's heart for the poor with a young adults group in brampton. a few days later, we found ourselves sitting on various corners of downtown toronto with the hopes of 'getting a feel' for what it's like for the average panhandler.

before i continue, please note that, one, we went into this with the understanding that there was no possible way that we could fully [or even partially] understand what it's like to have to survive on the streets, or rely on the generosity of a stranger to live, and two, any money that we did collect [which was minimal] was given back to the community in which we were trying to understand, and serve.

now, let it be said that regardless of the fact that we all had homes to go to at the end of the day and that this was merely an exercise, the few hours that we did spend on the streets opened our eyes to a few things:

- people are generally fearful and/or apathetic when it comes to the homeless, which all of us have been guilty of at one time or another, myself included. others may want to help, but don't know how.

- people are apt to take advantage of vulnerable people. [one man actually attempted to solicit one of my friends as she sat there on the cold sidewalk].

- it is easy to get bored, and feel invisible.

i can recall countless times during these few hours when people pretended not to see us, protected their kids from us, or made rude comments as they passed. one lady even went as far as to yell at my friend and i from a distance, as we sat on what seemed to be a vacant store's steps. when we offered to help her hold the door as she struggled to carry more than she could handle, she very rudely told us that she didn't want help from 'us'.

even though i've 'worked' with people on the margins of society for over a decade now, my heart broke in ways i've never felt before as i sat there and experienced the feelings that came with being ignored and dare i say, feared. to think that this was merely a glimpse of the rejection that others are subjected to on a daily basis blows my mind; to think that i, too, have been guilty of extending this kind of rejection to people at times, breaks my heart.

2) a look ahead.

june: i'm excited to watch my S.W.O.L.E kids lead their schools in a high energy obstacle course as the school year wraps up, and just as excited to be able to hang out with the families at single mom's camp again this year. [i love my life].

july: aside from having the honor of speaking at lakeshore camp on a sunday morning, running a few team honduras meetings, and hanging out with youth, i have no idea what this month will hold for me. [do i ever?]

august: after months of planning, meetings and fundraising, i get to see one of my dreams come to pass as i head to honduras with some of the greatest youth in the GTA [my heart is bursting! i wish i could share a few exciting things with you today, but i'll have to save that for another time].

3) the grief process

my family and i made it through what would have been my dad's 61st birthday a few weeks ago, are about to face what would be my parents' 33rd wedding anniversary next week, and a much dreaded father's day. not a day goes by where i don't think about my dad and miss him greatly, yet i still can't wrap my mind around the fact that he's gone.

4) gratitude gets me through.

i feel the need to pinch myself sometimes, wondering if this is really my life. i could sit here all night and write out everything i'm thankful for, but clearly this blog is long enough. HA. i will say, however, that i would not be where i am today without God, the amazing people that surround me on a daily basis, and the unique adventures that make my life as rich and crazy as it is =)

until next time, friends.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

gratitude, grief, my future, and my favourite blue bird.

1) i can't tell you how thankful i am for the people in my life.

to my family: you keep me grounded, and laughing. thank you for journeying with me through life's ups and downs. i know i can count on you.

to my friends: you make life enjoyable and bearable. thank you for all of your encouragement and support. my life is rich because of you.

one voice one team: i'm honored to work with such a diverse and energetic group of individuals. thank you for all you do to teach and challenge me, even when done unintentionally. i am a better person because of you.

to all of those who have invested in my life previously: i am eternally grateful for your investment and think of you often.

2) i miss my dad.

my birthday/easter was bittersweet. i loved having all of my family pile into my sister and i's two bedroom apartment for the weekend, but i couldn't help but acknowledge the hole i felt the entire time.

people warned me about the random moments of grief, but it doesn't make them any easier. the simplest thing reminds me of my dad and causes the tears to flow: a rascal flatts song, a box of kleenex, a birthday card signed "love mom"; anything. for someone who has worked as hard as i have to control her emotions, the unpredictability of it all makes this process all the more frustrating.

i haven't forgotten you, dad. miss you more and more each day!

3) despite setbacks, you gotta keep going.

i must say, i get AMPED UP just thinking about my future.

i'm honored [and excited] to be:

- speaking at the student movement in whitby next thursday night.
- partnering with a local youth/young adults group called defined by christ and introducing them to one of my biggest passions: the poor.
- sitting on a panel for a tattered tiaras' girls' event at a high school in bowmanville at the beginning of may.
- speaking at a 'defined by christ' event a few days after that.
- helping organize teams of people to serve at st. francis table this summer [get at me for deets!]
- speaking at lakeshore camp on sunday, july 8th.
- taking a team of youth from three different high schools to honduras in august.

...and the list goes on.

i'm so thankful for every opportunity that comes my way, and equally thankful that i didn't throw in the towel during those times where i saw no other option but to quit.

perservance pays off!

4) and last but not least ... GO JAYS GO!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

my dad's right handed woman.

my dad's health has been on the decline ever since he took his first heart attack in '96. over the last 15 years, he has undergone surgery after surgery, suffered multiple heart attacks, encountered countless complications from being diabetic, suffered a stroke, lived with severe kidney failure, and lost his ability to walk, among other things.

but behind all of this stood my mom, my dad's right handed woman, and the strongest woman i know.

to say that she stood by her vow to love my dad 'through sickness and health' is an understatement. over the past year and a bit, i've watched her 'put her life on hold' to take care of my dad 24 hours a day, and trust me when i say that this was no easy task! she organized and administered his meds [about 130 pills a week - not including his insulin dose 3x/day], kept track of his multiple doctor's appointments, cooked, counted his calorie intake, cleaned up certain messes, and helped him up when he lost his balance on the days he decided to be stubborn and independent [i don't blame him].

as his health worsened, so did my mom's stress level. and yet she continued to take care of him because she loved him, and because she ... wait for it ... promised to love him 'until death do them part'.

now, let it be said that in no ways am i here to bash [or judge] anyone who has been married and since divorced or separated. i understand that there are situations that warrant such a decision, BUT i also believe that we live in a world that gives up on love far too easily.

the media is the worst at depicting this. i can barely flip through the channels nowadays or pick up a magazine without hearing about someone's marriage ending in '72 days'. i find this disheartening and confusing, really. how can one go from "until death do us part" to "until you make me mad or hurt my feelings?" [again, i know that not all marriages end this quickly - or because of such 'pettiness' - i'm simply just making a point].

in my opinion, the media should also depict stories like that of my mom and dad; stories of love and commitment, because, well, marriages like those exist, too. i know this to be true because i was fortunate enough to be able to watch my mom and dad live out the vows they made to each other 32 years a go. and i couldn't be more grateful.

" dear children, let us not love with words and speech, but in actions and in truth" [1 john 3:18]

Friday, January 6, 2012

a tearstained pillow, laughter, and a buttload of gratitude.

i sit staring at the computer screen for hours at a time trying to pound out a blog. i write five words and erase three. write one and stare at it blankly. there's so much going on in this head of mine; only the best of memories of my dad, and questions. a whole lot of questions.

i've almost made it through day eight without my dad and so far i've only had two 'i'm not going to make it moments'. thankfully, i have great friends who are willing to lay with me until i fall asleep, others who cover me in prayer, a God who hears mine, and a water resistant pillow [or at least one that dries quickly].

whoever said that 'laughter is the best medicine' must have been a doctor. i'm so thankful that my family has the ability to make each other laugh. i'm also thankful for shows like 'modern family' and for friends who can tell me a joke at the drop of a hat, even if they are a little on the corny side [ahem, mel].

i'm thankful for each and every one of you who took the time to call or write, and those who continue to do so.

and most of all, i'm thankful that i had the chance to spend 31 years with a dad who not only taught me about the importance of having a strong work ethic, but a dad who deeply loved and valued his wife and his kids; a dad who deeply loved and valued ... me.

miss you, dad.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

my journey without my dad: day five.

most of you wouldn't be able to tell this by looking at me, but i'm missing a tooth. that's right - me - the one with the radiant smile.

you see, the dentist i had growing up told me that i had more than enough room in my mouth for my wisdom teeth to come in without problem [people always did tell me that i had a big mouth], but he was wrong. years later, my bottom left wisdom tooth came in and cracked the tooth in front of it, causing me a great deal of pain and forcing me to get it pulled.

minus the huge needle, i loved the feeling of getting my mouth frozen. i wasn't, however, a fan of the feeling i got when the freezing started to thaw; not only did i start to feel some pain, but i realized a part of me was missing.

this is exactly how i'm feeling today in regards to losing my dad. the numbness is starting to ware, causing me to face - and learn how to deal with - the pain and loss that i feel as a result. and frankly i suck at it.

a few random grief observations.

1) people are insensitive, but God is gracious.

on the morning my dad passed away, my siblings and i dropped my mom off at the door of her apartment and then went to park the car. when we met up with her a few minutes later, she told us about a conversation that had taken place in the few seconds we weren't together. after finding out that my dad passed away, a man who lives in her building went up to her and said, "you know, linda, the ambulance woke me up this morning and i wasn't able to get back to sleep". true story. [i say God is gracious because had i have been there, i'm certain that i would have punched him in the face].

2) love and support often come from the most unlikely places.

it's been said that you really learn who your true friends are in times like these and i couldn't agree more. in most cases, the people who i thought would be there for me, haven't been, and those i didn't even think about reaching out to me have been the ones that have the most.

3) the probability of me picking up the phone 'to talk' is slim, but the possibility of me 'needing' to is great.

i've been on the other side of this whole thing. you know, the watching your friend go through something and feeling helpless thing. and it sucks. but the whole 'call me if you need me' line doesn't usually 'work', and the 'i would call but you're probably too busy or have others surrounding you' one is, more often that not, farthest from the truth. the first couple of days, maybe. but after that [or the funeral if there is one], people tend to back away and forget about you, when really, that's when they [ i ] need you the most.

4) everyone grieves differently, and i really don't know how to.

everyone in my family is dealing with this differently. some use humour to get through, some are full of anger, and others cry. but me? i just feel ... lost ... and miss my dad.