Thursday, December 31, 2015

things i learned in 2015:

biking to toronto takes a lot longer than taking the train, but is far more beneficial.
growth is a slow and painful process, but the outcome is worth it.
though painful at times, change is inevitable, and good for you.
jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is exhilarating.
you cant force someone to love you, or stick by you.
baseball has the ability to unite a whole city.
i spend most of my time in coffee shops.
there's nothing like a good bat flip.

things i'm still learning as i make my way into 2016:

you can't expect things from people who are incapable of giving, unwilling to give, or simply cannot give.
your own health [physical, mental, emotional and spiritual] should take priority over others.
the way people treat you has less to do with you, and more to do with them.
cancer has the ability to steer you off course if you let it.
support can come from the most unlikely of places.

things i expect this year:

i expect to move forward; to keep building my dream/non profit/ministry, to hand out a butt load of water bottles during operation hydration, to love harder, complain less, and read more.

above all else, i vow to to never stop learning, to never stop growing, and to always strive to be a better me.

happy new year, everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

i warn you, this is going to be the most raw [and most random] blog i have ever written; a blog that contains #nofilter [and bad grammar].

i'm really pissed off. like destructively pissed off. and by destructive, i don't mean hurting myself [let's be serious - i would have done so a long time a go if i wasn't so chicken] or hurting anyone else intentionally; by destructive i mean packing a knapsack and disappearing forever, without a trace, because, well, i'd rather be alone and know why i'm alone than lay in bed at night and wonder why.

everyone in my family has someone to lean on through this, but i don't. not to that extent any ways. you know, someone who's obligated to be there for me, and sit with me when i feel at an all time low, like i do now. someone who gets me [though i am starting to realize that no one really does]. someone who can just sit with me and not expect me to entertain them, or even talk when i don't have the energy to. someone i'm comfortable enough to cry in front of, and who can hold me as i do.

this week was deeply traumatic for me. my life crumbled beneath me when i got a phone call on monday afternoon telling me that the doctors needed us all to come in and say goodbye to my mom, who, to my knowledge, was doing well half an hour before when i checked in on her. the next seven hours were the scariest hours of my life. i paced around the house, pleading with God to allow my mom to stay alive until i got there, praying that someone would pick up their phone and make that moment feel less scary and less lonely for me, all the while dropping f bombs, because, let's face it, sometimes dropping an f bomb is the most therapeutic thing one can do.

i was relieved [and so very thankful] when i got to the hospital and saw my mom sitting up and smiling. i know God heard my prayer [and my f bombs, and still loves me the same].

yet, it was a week of ups and downs. one day, mom was fine, and the next, not so much.

on top of this, i feel like an outcast in my own family, and didn't find much support from them while i was there, in fact, the complete opposite was true. [out of respect for them, i'll keep the detail to myself; i realize we're all dealing with the stress of this in our own way].

one night, when my mom was up talking about us, she said, "adam's really good at computers, amanda's really good at making cakes, and paula, i'm not so sure what she's good at". i cant stop thinking about those words; they've been replaying in my mind like a broken record ever since.

i'm all alone in life.

my mom doesn't know what i'm good at.

she's dying, my dad's gone, and i'm really pissed off about both.

i'm pissed off that God designed me with such a desire to have a family of my own, and yet i'm alone and barren at 35, and everyone else in my life has a spouse, or a boyfriend, and most of them, kids.

i'm angry that i was created an emotional being, that i battle depression and anxiety, and that, although i've been able to conquer my mental illness day to day, situations like this send me on a downward spiral.

and lastly, i'm mad that most of my closest friends are absent and think it's suffice to text me to let me know they've been 'too busy' to text me, when i have done nothing but show up for them when they've needed me to.

or maybe, just maybe, all of the anger i feel is misplaced. who knows.

but what i do know is that i'm not doing very well these days, and plan on spending the day with my reliable buddies, netflix and shuteye.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

sorry, forrest, i love chocolate and all, but to me, life is more like ... a good game of snakes and ladders.

you see, you gotta take life one square at a time. sometimes, the dice work in your favour, and sometimes, they don't. either way, you gotta keep going, and keep moving on up.

there are days when you'll land on a snake, and end up back at square one. [no pun intended]. a breakup. demotion. reoccurring sickness. you name it. all you know is that you were ahead, and now you're behind.

of course there are days where your life meets a ladder, too. an engagement. promotion. inheritance. whatever. you have no idea how you gained so much ground, but you're happy you did.

but either way, life happens one step - or one roll - at a time.

most of you have been following my family and i's journey with cancer.

this morning, my mom went into her long awaited appointment to look into getting a permanent drain put in, and walked out having to temporarily admit herself into the hospital due to her lungs needing to be tapped. my sister's phone died, but last i heard, they drained two litres of fluid from her lungs and were proceeding with her all too familiar abdomen draining procedure next. i don't know much at this point, none of us do, but one thing i do know is this: even the most seemingly long and confusing snakes can't stop us from playing the game. pass the dice, please.

update: they drained my mom's abdomen and set her up to be drained three times a week through homecare. she's at home resting now, and will continue to do so until we get her multiple xray and test results back.

ps. please don't mistake my generally positive attitude as a sign of denial; i am fully aware of what is at stake here and have experienced many weak and heart wrenching moments along the way, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

my life has been a world wind of craziness this past month, [the same can be said about the lives of those i love the most], so i haven't been able to sit down and blog much. truthfully, i'm not sure how much will come out now either, but i thought i'd sit down and attempt to write out my thoughts any ways.

i'm heading back to ottawa in the morning to spend the week with my mom while my sister and brother-in-law sail the ocean on a much needed cruise. i'm excited to spend some time with her, and rest, but i'm feeling a little sad about leaving some of my loved ones here, too. truth be told, there are hurting people everywhere, and you, my dear reader, may be one of them.

i don't know much; i can't figure out why people have to suffer, why some suffer more than others, and why heartache of any calibre sucks so much, but one thing i do know is this: God promises to be close to the broken hearted [psalm 34:18] and promises never to abandon us in our pain (or ever, for that matter). [deuteronomy 31:6 and hebrews 13:5, to name a few].

jesus, be near.

those are the words i keep praying over and over for my mom as she battles terminal cancer, for my friends who are grieving the loss of a loved one or a relationship, for others facing the most confusing of situations, and for myself, as i carry some of it with them, and face pain in my own life.

we can argue all we want with scripture and wrestle though its accuracy [a process i find to be healthy], but we can't argue with experience.

as i sit here and write, my mind goes back to one of the loneliest times in my life to date. i made a move across the country to do an internship on the streets of vancouver back in 2003. despite leaving all i knew behind, i remember feeling super excited as i boarded the plane that day, and ready for the adventure that met me on the other side of it.

what i didn't know at the time, though, is how lonely of a season it would be for me.

i thought my friends would call, or write. i thought i'd find a circle of friends out there to hang out with all of the time and keep me busy [one of my coping mechanisms to anything, really]; i thought i'd be okay.

but i wasn't. for most of my internship, i felt deeply alone and depressed.

and on one dark day specifically, that loneliness brought me to the ground. for a long time, i found myself weeping face first in the carpet in my office. i wept, and groaned, and beat the ground. [that may sound dramatic to some of you, but some of you know exactly what i'm talking about because you've been there].

suddenly [although it didn't feel very suddenly at the time], peace covered me like a blanket, and i knew - i just knew - that God was right there with me in my deepest anguish.

i'll never forget the assurance i felt in that moment, and the strength that followed that allowed me to get back up and move on with my day, or the countless other times i have felt similar peace, and strength, either.

so, to you, my beloved reader, i am praying for you today! i'm praying that you would feel God surround you, that peace would cover you like a blanket, that you would have the strength to keep going, and most importantly, i'm praying for jesus to be near. to you, and to me. amen.

Friday, November 13, 2015

even in a season of uncertainty, there is always good we can cling to.

on a big scale, had my mom not have gotten word that she was cancer free four months a go [which turned out to be false], she wouldn't have made the move to ottawa, where she is well taken care of. things would look a lot different had she stayed in alliston, too; for one, she would have been alone, and two, she wouldn't be as comfortable as she is here, and comfort is key.

on a smaller scale, i had booked tuesday off to get a pedicure with my BFFN, and the weekend off to go to niagara will the girls [it's important to make time for such things], which ended up making my impromptu trip to ottawa this week feasible [and easier for my boss].

a sweet lady dropped by the house yesterday to give my mom a hand knitted shall/small blanket to keep her warm, and another sent her flowers.

a friend of mine handed me a generous amount of cash to alleviate any financial stress i'd have travelling to ottawa twice this month, while another covered my bus fair this round, and another, some food.

countless others have offered to help, too, while others have taken time out of their day to let me know that we're being prayed for, all of which i appreciate a great deal, and hope continues as my family and i continue to walk this out together.

truth be told, life was never meant to be lived alone, and i sincerely hope that you don't feel alone in whatever YOU happen to be walking through today.

we were never promised a pain free life, but we were, and are, promised the strength to endure it, and the assurance of God's presence to carry us through.

strength: "but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me" [2 timothy 4:17]

presence: "but the Lord was with joseph in prison and showed him steadfast love" [genesis 39:21]

in both cases, the but ensures that's there's more to their story than what preceded this very conjunction, and there's more to mine, too.

my mom has cancer, but the Lord is with me.

my heart hurts, but God is close to the broken hearted.

i get anxious just thinking about what life will look like without my mom, but i don't have to worry about tomorrow.

and you know something? neither do you.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"it's not good", the oncologist said to my mom. "i cant give you a timeline, but i'm afraid that the cancer will..."

"take my life?!", she said, finishing his sentence.

she knew the answer. we all did. we could tell by the concerned look on his face.

sure enough, he nodded, followed by a very solemn 'yes'.

somehow those words pierced me even harder coming from my mom. in an odd way, it made it more personal, more real. "my life", she said. my mom's life. my only remaining parent. my rock, my inspiration.

for the next fifteen minutes, i sat there feeling numb, zoning in and out as my mom and her doctor discussed the next steps; steps that will inevitably lead to her passing on from this world to the next.

selfishly, i want my mom here. i love her, and need her.

but selflessly, i don't want her to suffer any more, a battle that keeps me awake at night.

what keeps me going, though, are these few principles/practices:

1) i cherish every moment.

of my life, and of my mom's life. even after her most recent appointment, my family and i found ourselves sitting around the lunch table cracking jokes and enjoying each other's company as usual. while there have been, and will continue to be, very painful moments along the journey, there have also been very beautiful ones in the midst of them.

2) i remain thankful.

i remember feeling deeply alone the last time my mom went through treatment, but this time the complete opposite is true. in just a few short days, i've felt an army of people surround me and lift me up, lift us up. my managers have been nothing but kind, and accommodating, and ready to give me time off whenever i need it. some of my friends have made long distance calls [even from texas] and have sent texts, and one even went as far as to send me enough money to cover my first trip to ottawa to be with my mom, who, at the moment, is being taken good care of by my younger sister, amanda, and her husband, al, there.

3) i cry & i write.

both of these things are therapeutic for me. crying releases pain, and writing helps me process it.

and lastly, and most importantly,

4) i cling to my favourite scripture, psalm 121:1-2:

i lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
my help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

i keep picturing my mom putting her hands on her face when the doctor told her that her cancer was back last week. my heart breaks just thinking about it.

but today, i got word that she hugged the same doctor and 'thanked him for everything' after he told her the chemo was most likely the route she would have to take this round, and my heart was full of pride, so much pride.

my mom is the sweetest person i know, always thinking of others, even in the midst of her own health struggle.

next week, i'll be the one hugging her when she comes to toronto for more tests, and i will hug her tightly, because, well, you just never know. [you should hug all of your loved ones tightly any chance you get, really].

statistically, most don't make it through the second round, and truthfully, we all have a bad - deep gutted - feeling about it this time.

but we can't get stuck there.

we must walk through this without wasting a moment of time together, and always hope for the best.

in the meantime, i look to the hills [psalm 121:1-2] and pray, i write, and, as my old [as in previous] spiritual mom once told me, i "let myself cry, then wipe the tears from my eyes and keep going".

no matter what, you have to keep going.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

even after last night's loss, i am deeply proud of my team, and here's why:

1) 93-69 is an amazing way to end a season [especially one that didn't look too promising back in june].

2) they beat the yankees, which is a feat in itself.

3) they played through the pressure put on them by 50,000+ fans [also a feat in itself].

4) they took advantage of elvis andrus' three error inning [i'd still marry him] and came back from being down two games against texas.

5) they brought a city together.

and here's what i learned by watching them:

1) one person can't carry a team.

jose bautista is [bat] flippin' awesome, donaldson is out of this world, pillar, superman, and stroman, a big ball of passion [i could go on an on here], but no man should have to feel the pressure of carrying the team alone, not even a home run king or MVP. [others attribute our winning streak to price and tulo - and yes, while those trades brought a certain energy and hope to our team - everyone contributed to their remarkable season].

2) sports provide a temporary escape and bring people together.

whether i was at work, a sports bar, or at the dome [it will always be called the dome to me], i couldn't help but be energized by the unity i felt throughout post season. watching my whole restaurant erupt after a run scored was energizing, and listening to thousands of strangers chant 'let's go blue jays' on my walk back to union station the other night was nothing short of amazing. [all of the hot guys wearing blue jays' gear didn't hurt, either].

for three hours, nothing else mattered.

but, at the end of the day, it's only baseball.

everyone who knows me knows that i have been the biggest jays fan for decades now [i still own framed pictures of the 92-93 teams], but my life isn't altered by their loss [nor would it have been had they won], because, well, there are more important things in life than baseball.

maybe we'll get 'em next year, or maybe we won't, but either way, win or lose, the jays will always have a fan in me.

Monday, October 19, 2015

it's funny how one word can instill so much fear, and pain.

i remember the first time i received word that my mom had cancer and how paralyzed i felt when my phone exploded with texts that day.

but thankfully, after a year of tests, surgery, and radiation, she beat it, and she beat it in the most courageous way.

it was raining when i got the news this time, which seemed fitting. i was walking through toronto at the time, feeling like i as going to be sick, but choosing to focus on a breathing exercise i learned to help with my anxiety instead. even still, the 'what ifs?' and the 'why her?'s" started flooding in simultaneously with the downpour of rain; thoughts that can drown you if you let them.

but really, why her? why my mom, the one who stood by my dad's side for years and loved him with the most sacrificial love, taking care of him for years as he struggled with his own health? that type of stress was enough to kill anyone, really, and in her case, played a big part in her having a heart attack and having to undergo triple-bypass surgery, which she endured like a champ. and yet even through this, she honored her vows and took care of him until the day she woke up to him laying lifeless - yet peacefully - on the floor beside her.

and she endured that like a champ, too.

cancer came, and cancer went, and we all celebrated with tears of relief. [i still have the picture of her holding her pina colada in the air that day]. she finally caught a break.

after her first post radiation appointment three months a go, things looked promising.

three days a go, however, not so much. unfortunately, the fluid that they drained from my mom's stomach contained 'a lot of' cancer cells, stupid cancer cells.

i'm learning that there's a fine line between feeling hopeful and fearful, and being positive yet realistic.

my conclusion in all of this, though, and my encouragement to you, is this:

when life throws you a curve ball, let yourself feel what you gotta feel. want to scream? scream? pray? pray. process. journal. cry, whatever. just don't get stuck there. keep going, keep hoping, and don't you dare lose faith! not for you, not for me, and certainly not for my mom.

Monday, October 5, 2015

those of you who know me can attest to the fact that i'm an extremely emotional being.

i feel things. i cry when i'm grateful, when i'm hurting, when others are, or when i watch shows like the amazing race or undercover boss.

i love deeply and invest wholeheartedly.

but with all of this comes the constant need to recognize and adjust expectations, and the risk of facing hurt and disappointment in the process.

you see, while i acknowledge that emotion and feelings are a beautiful thing, i reject the emotional side of me more often than not.

that being said, i hate that i feel so much. i hate that i lay in bed for hours replaying a conversation i had but shouldn't have, or dwelling on something someone said to me that they shouldn't have.

when i'm hurt, i get angry and adopt an 'i don't care' attitude, and when i'm really hurt, i shut down, isolate myself, and let the few that have hurt me make me believe that everyone will.

when all is said and done [though i'm working on it], i have a hard time trusting people and find very few people safe.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

as humans, we all crave validation. a "great job" from a boss, an "i'm proud of you" from a parent, an "i appreciate you" from a friend.

even when we're not realizing it, or at least acknowledging our motive, we're posting pictures on facebook to show people we haven't talked to in decades how cool our lives are, or better yet, sticking it to the ladies on the view by posting pictures of different nurses with their 'nurse' stethoscopes to validate our very important job. we're approval addicts by nature.

a few days a go i shared with the facebook world that i felt like i was 'failing at life', and the response was remarkable.

my inbox flooded with emails from people who wanted to thank me for being so honest because they feel like that, too, and my wall flooded with people who wanted to let me know how much my life has impacted theirs.

i heard from a young adult [who was, at the time, in trouble with the law] whom i lived with for a summer five years a go, some people from high school, a friend i met at a jays' game in detroit, a kid i babysat when i was a teenager, a girl i served in a restaurant a while back, and the list goes on.

with every kind word, my 'i fail at life' mentality drifted away. with every word of truth, the lies suffocated.

the truth is, as i have often preached, success isn't measured by how many degrees we have, what kind of car we drive, how big our house is, or what kind of title we carry. success, in my opinion, is measured by how well we love, what kind of person we are, and what kind of legacy we'll leave behind.

after all, we can't take anything with us when we die. only love remains.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

1) sometimes, you have to walk the same path to see how much you've changed.

i cringe when people use the phrase "everything happens for a reason" as a way of trying to cheer me up when things go sour, but at the end of the day, while i don't necessarily believe in the validity of that statement, i do believe that everything works out for good, and that everything we go through in life can be used for a greater purpose.

i couldn't help but meditate on proverbs 19:21 [many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails] and proverbs 16:9 [in their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps] as i walked out of the church i used to attend, and have recently returned to, this past sunday. it felt like home to me, yet new, and i like new.

2) the best is yet to come.

in addition to working alongside the kids' pastor and pouring into the students that come through his leadership program, i have been plugging away at building this kickin non profit that my friend and i have been dreaming about for longer than we even knew we were. i can't go into too much detail at this point, but let's just say that it incorporates all of our passions and giftings [public speaking, mentoring students, connecting them to local and global serving projects etc]. things have been falling into place quite nicely as we work alongside the PAOC missions department at building a strong and sustainable foundation, and i couldn't be more thrilled about it.

my future is bright ... and so is yours.

Monday, August 10, 2015

i'm having a hard time prioritizing my life these days.

i have a demanding job [which i happen to like], relationships to invest in, places to volunteer, limited time to build my dream job on the side, and truthfully, it's easy to feel overwhelmed at times. not so much physically, as one good nap [followed by some sort of caffeine fix] tend to keep me going, but mentally and emotionally.

1) needs surround us, but we can't meet them all.

the lady i live with is lonely, some of my friends are going through tough times, and strangers, even though i have my headphones in, think i have an imaginary 'tell me your problems' sign on when i'm trying to recharge between meetings. people can be draining.

"in every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange" [brennan manning]

2) be a life-giver.

this isn't to say that you can't have a bad day, process things you're going through with a friend or two, or feel depressed when you have every reason to, but for the most part you [we] have the power to breathe life into others, and have them walk away from us feeling uplifted and loved.

2) get around life-givers.

surround yourself with people who encourage you, make you laugh, and add value to your life, but don't avoid the ones who don't, for the latter are the ones who help you build character ;)

3) take care of YOU.

on every airplane i've been on [minus the one i most recently jumped out of], the lovely flight attendant cautioned us to 'put our own oxygen mask on' before assisting others [with the exception of whoever was sitting beside me obvie].

all kidding aside, i think they're onto something; truth be told, you can't help others if you're not helping yourself, nor can you take care of others if you're not taking care of ... you.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

i may not be troy tulowitzki material [how about those blue jays?!], but i was a pretty darn good short stop if i do say so myself.

my ability to keep my eye on the ball was matchless, my arm, a canon, and honestly, the only time i made a defensive error was when i got ahead of myself and focused on throwing the ball to first before i even thought about getting the ball in my glove in the first place.

isn't that how we face life sometimes? by paying too much attention to the next step, the next task, the next day [whatever], instead of focussing on what is actually happening in our lives right at this very moment?

i thought about this a lot during my most recent skydiving [thankfully, not sky-die-ving] experience.

you see, while many focus on the actual jumping part, there's actually a lot more to the whole experience than that one significant step.

first, you have the road trip with new friends, and old, and experiencing all of the emotions that each of you are feeling bottled up in one car. some are excited, some, anxious, and some are feeling both, but regardless, you're in it together.

and you're in it together when a ghetto station wagon hits you and rips your bumper off less than a block away from the runway you set out to conquer, and sets you back an hour. [true story].

and then there's the prep stage; the 'you may die' DVD they make you watch, the pages and pages of paperwork you sign to acknowledge that you may not make it, meeting your instructor who convinces you you will, getting suited up, and doing mock jumps in makeshift airplane cabins.

following that comes the ride up - 20 minutes of bliss - followed by the most anticipated part of all: the jump. from there, you fall, and glide, and if you're lucky, land safely, excited that you didn't give people a reason to watch the video, but sad that you're no longer in the air.

the thing is, it would have been easy for any one of us to let the content of the video, or the anxious feelings we were feeling because of it, prevent us from embracing this experience as a whole, and truthfully, some did [and some do}, but what good is that? what good would the plane ride have been had i had been focussing on my way down the whole time? and what good is today if all we're doing is focussing on tomorrow?

Friday, July 24, 2015

like some of you, i used to be afraid of homeless people.

but that all changed the day the course of my life did.

i remember coming in from my 'tour' of east hastings in vancouver [the poorest postal code in canada] and weeping - a gut wrenching weep - in the corner of the organization we were partnering with that week. though i wasn't sure what was happening inside of me at the time, i believe, looking back, that God was giving me a specific burden for that city, because, well, four months later, i jumped on my first solo plane ride and moved there for an internship.

i thought i was going there to change the world, you see. my naive 22 year old self thought that i was going to play an instrumental part in seeing heroin addicts set free from their addiction and play an even bigger part in ridding the streets from homelessness for good.

little did i know that God would use that seven month internship to show me just how broken i was, and how, in fact, it was my very brokenness that would help me better connect with those i sought out to help.

truth be told, i am no better than the ones i hand out water to on an almost weekly basis, and neither are you, and if we push past our fears and open our eyes, we may be surprised at just how much we actually have in common with those we're prone to overlook.

a bright yellow sign caught my attention as i was walking through downtown toronto last week during 'project high-five':

"suffer from depression and anxiety", it read. "welfare only helps so much".

being one that has battled such a debilitating disease, my heart automatically connected with the life behind the sign.

"may i?" i said, as i sat down beside her.

from there we talked briefly about our battle with depression, but more about the way she was treated on a daily basis. i wasn't shocked at the things people say or do to her as they walk by, but it confirmed all that i have been thinking and fueled me to do even more to break down the stigma attached to homelessness.

you see, roof over our head or not, we're all the same; we are all humans with beating hearts, and feelings, we all bleed red, and all of us - every single one of us - has a story.

still afraid? let this two minute video help:

[you may have to copy and paste it into your browser]

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

never forget where you came from.

my mom packed up her one bedroom apartment last week and made the trek to ottawa to live with my sister and brother in law. on one hand, i couldn't be more thrilled for her as i know that she's always wanted to move there and will be well taken care of, but on another, it made me feel kind of sad. sad that i no longer have a place to remember my dad [although i carry him everywhere i go], and sad that the place i grew up in suddenly seems oddly vacant.

alliston was more than a town to me; it was my safe place; a place where i landed my first job, started going to church, ended my six year high school stint with a valedictorian speech, played ball, cried a bit, and laughed a lot more.

but it was also a launch pad; a launch pad that saw me off to brampton, ontario when i was 21, and then from there, vancouver, edmonton, penticton, and ottawa before coming back to the GTA, all of which have moulded me into the person i am today.

as you know from reading my blogs, i've made some significant changes in my life as of late, and i've never felt so alive and tired all at the same time. with these changes comes the need to arrange [and rearrange] my priorities while trying to find balance between working, building my organization, and resting. i try and balance these three necessities every single day, all the while trying to make time for what's most important: my relationships.

today, i'm sitting in second cup with two of my friends who are in town until tomorrow. we hung out, had some lunch, caught up, and now all three of us are sitting at our respected computers and working on the stuff that keeps our hearts beating; one is working on designing a logo, another is in a business meeting via skype, and i'm taking a break from writing the content for my website to well, write this blog.

as much as i sit here and reflect on my past, i'm actually really pumped about my future. in a few weeks i have the honour of speaking at a youth group in mississauga, and a few weeks after that, i'll be crossing the last thing off of my original bucket list and jumping out of a plane to celebrate my fave friend's birthday [and hopefully not our death day].

august includes taking the same youth group i'm speaking at on my first official operation hydration run and serving alongside them at st. francis table in the span of two days, which i'm super excited about.

in october, i'm participating in 'ride for refuge' [] in hopes to raise money for regeneration, an outreach community designed to care for those who struggle with homelessness in brampton, where i will start volunteering with once my criminal record check clears within the next few weeks.[].

as far as november goes, i'm currently in the beginning stages of planning a trip back to aftica, which makes my heart burst with joy even more ...unless that's all the coffee i've drank today talking ;)

all joking aside, when all is said and done, our past may be behind us, but our future awaits. go get 'em!

Monday, July 6, 2015

no one can convince you that their product is the best if they don't let you know why it's the best, and the same can be said when 'casting a vision'.

i realized that letting people know that i was running an 'operation hydration' by means of a facebook status wasn't working about two statuses in. sure, it got a few likes, made people aware of what i was doing, and encouraged people to donate [which encouraged me more than anything], but i have done way more water runs alone than i have with anyone else.

that being said, i've decided to take a different approach, because, well, sometimes trying harder doesn't work, but trying different does.

the day after i had a planning session in a local coffee shop with my buddy justin, a friend of mine, who just happens to be a very talented and professional web developer, offered to create a website for me. seconds later, we bought a soon to be released domain, and have been working on creating a sick website ever since. [stay tuned].

on top of this, i have been pounding out blog ideas; ideas that will let you in on the why i have decided to dedicate my life to such things like operation hydration, and why i feel it's my personal mission to 1) break down the stigma attached to homelessness, and 2) let you, the reader, know how simple it is to make a difference in the world around you.

in the meantime, i will continue to run operation hydrations and let you know about them through various social media outlets,and this week, i will be giving a handful of people a 'high-five' [a $5 bill] instead of water as i feel it impressed on my heart to do so like i did in the story you're about to read below. here, you will find a journal entry that i wrote a few years a go after a friendly encounter with one of edmonton's homeless.

i sat on the cold ground with leonard today because i'm not too good to sit on the ground. it was cold, i'll admit. freezing actually. but somewhere in the back of my mind i remembered that i had somewhere warm to go when our conversation ended. he didn't; the sidewalk was home.

our relationship started when he asked me for some spare change. at the time i only had my debit card, and limited money on it, so i kindly turned him down. a few minutes later though, i felt "led" to give him some of the money i received as cash back at the bargain barn.

that's when i sat down beside him. the $5 bill was the "ticket" into his life sorta speak.

"i'm paula" i said as i put out my hand.
"leonard", he replied. "but my friends call me leo"
"leo it is," i thought.

i began to ask him questions about his life. in the short period of time i had between classes i learned about his love for golf and how much of an inspiration tiger woods has been to him. i learned that most of his friends are in jail and that he should be too. i learned that he's an eskimo as he proudly told me, and that because of this he's used to the cold and doesn't wear gloves. when he is cold, however, nothing warms him up like a hot tea, he said.

i sat back and listened to him tell me story after story. though each one was different, they all started the same: "OH! you gotta hear this one...!"

i didn't say much in response. i just sat there, smiled, and listened.

sometimes 'making a difference' can be as simple as sitting on the cold pavement listening to someone share about their life.

Friday, July 3, 2015

ever feel lonely? like really lonely?

maybe, like me, you fall asleep alone every night and wake up in an equally empty bed every morning. or maybe you, like so many others, might as well sleep alone because that's how you feel laying beside your spouse each night any ways.

maybe you're the kid in your class who unwillingly eats lunch alone, or the only one in your office who doesn't get invited to the pool party after work.

or maybe, just maybe, your calendar is jam packed with events and coffee dates, but you can't seem to make a deep connection no matter how hard you try.

we've all been there. at least most of us have. and it sucks. loneliness sucks.

but can we just take a minute and think about the guy you pass on the street every day? the one with the sign that says "anything will help", or the empty cup that sits at his feet each day?

i've been feeling deeply lonely lately myself, and yet there have been moments where i have found myself thanking God that i understand what that feels like because, get this, experience develops understanding, which in turn produces compassion, and compassion, if channelled properly, will move you to action. in other words, our experience equips us to help others.

i was on a streetcar in between st. francis table and nathan phillips square yesterday when my streetcar stood at a standstill for a while due to traffic. immediately, i looked out the window and my eyes were drawn to a young, full-bearded man sitting on the sidewalk. i watched this man, for what seemed like a good five minutes, try and get someone's - anyone's - attention. he said hi, attempted to make eye contact, and even went as far as opening the door for several of them by pushing on the automatic door opener behind his head. from what i could see, not one even one person looked at him. not one. and with each passing person, his disposition changed; it was as if i was able to feel his frustration and recognize the sense of loneliness he felt just by the look on his face as another human being, and another, passed him by. honestly, i wish i had gotten off of that street car and sat with him. i could tell he needed it; heck, i needed it.

truth be told, i wouldn't have the heart that i do for the poor if i couldn't relate to them in some way, and since i don't have a stinkin clue what it feels like to sit on a cold, lonely pavement all day, or wonder where my next meal is going to come from, let alone where i'm going to sleep, i do understand what it feels like to wrestle with a deep sense of loneliness at times. most of us do.

my challenge to you us today? send a text. tell a friend you love them. give someone a hug. say hi to a stranger. smile. make eye contact, whatever. if those of us who understand loneliness won't make this world a less lonely place for someone else, who will?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

my eyes were drawn to a particular article about an evangelical pastor who, instead of holding a picket sign while telling people they were going to hell like others have, wore an apology sign on behalf of Christians during pride this past weekend. my heart couldn't help but smile. "finally! someone gets it", i thought.

but then i started scrolling through the comment section and saw what everyone else would have written on their picket signs, and honestly, i was quite irritated and down right angry that people who claim to love God could be so hateful and naïve, when hate goes against all that Christ stood for, and stands for, and all that we as believers should.

on one end, we're mourning with a church full of people in south carolina who are recent victims of a hate crime, while on another, we're creating our own.

1) the words you say have the power to heal.

i've hammered this point out in many of my blogs, but i'll let this excerpt from the huffpost article, "an evangelical pastor at his first pride parade" hammer this one out for me this time:

"i was overwhelmed by the response. people began to cheer. many asked me to slow down so they could take a picture. some wiped away tears and simply mouthed 'thank you', or 'i accept your apology'. for the next few miles, cheers and cameras and tears greeted us everywhere we went. i was grateful i was wearing sunglasses, because there were a few moments when i simply welled up with tears and couldn't handle it anymore.

i couldn't handle the acceptance. i couldn't handle the forgiveness. i couldn't handle the small glimpses i witnessed of healing unfathomably deep hurts.

there was only one feeling i had: pride"

the words you speak have the power to heal, yes, but they also have the power to create deep wounds. choose yours wisely.

2) we have no right to judge something that we ourselves aren't modeling.

i had just tied my garbage bag and found myself placing it on my bed. my bed, people. when realizing what i had done, i quickly took it off in disgust. moments later, however, i found myself less and less disgusted. "at least it's my garbage", i thought. "not somebody else's".

isn't that how we view sin? the very things that we struggle with [our own garbage] isn't as gross/bad as anyone else's, yet at the end of the day, garbage is garbage.

it's time we stop looking at others' 'stuff' [in this case, homosexuality] and start focussing on our own [i.e. the amount of divorce, adultery, and the abuse of authority that just so happens to exist in most churches today]. i wonder how much further we would get in life if we were to spend all of our energy looking in the mirror and working on our own 'garbage' instead of spending all of our time going through other people's 'trash'.

3) an aPAULAgy.

to my male friends who love men, my female friends who love women, [and anyone else who doesn't fit in either category] i echo that pastor's sign that day. forgive us, those who claim to love God, for the ways in which we have judged you, made you feel inferior, and/or left you out, because in doing so, we have misrepresented Christ.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

1) having a hard time loving a co-worker or your in-laws? try a different approach. things not going according to plan? do the same. find yourself working on a character flaw day in and day out with seemingly zero progress? tackle it from a new angle. sometimes trying 'harder' doesn't work, but trying 'different' may.

2) i used to get so bent out of shape when a co-worker wasn't pulling their weight or when someone, anyone, was doing something that ticked me off, but i realized something as of late: you are responsible for you, and i am responsible for me. [life seems less stressful when we spend less time pointing fingers and more time looking in the mirror].

3) complaining is unattractive and life-sucking, but an 'attitude of gratitude' is life-giving.

i find myself thanking God throughout the day more and more these days. sometimes, it's for the 'small' things, like having toilet paper and toothpaste, or for having enough change to buy myself a coffee. other times, i thank Him for being present, for never leaving me, and for mending my friends' broken hearts when i can't seem to take their pain away like i so desperately want to.

4) and lastly, if you haven't listened to the song '10,000 reasons' by matt redman, you should.

"you're rich in love, and you're slow to anger, your name is great, and your heart is kind. for all your goodness i will keep on singing, ten thousand reasons for my heart to find. bless the Lord, O my soul'. amen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

death has a weird way of making one think about life.

i sat in the sixth row for rick robson's funeral yesterday, but felt as though i had front row seats to his life. anyone who has ever walked into his home, office, or life did, really. he was just that kind of man.

the kind of man who let you in. the kind of man who you felt comfortable enough to let in.

he was kind, and generous. wise, and honest. integral, and full of joy.

a faithful husband. a loving father. a mentor. a friend.

i miss him. i missed him the day i found out he passed away, and i miss him today. i always will. all of us will.

but he lives on in our hearts, and in our lives. because although he passed away, his impact continues, and his legacy lives on.

what kind of legacy will i leave, i wonder? what will people say about me when i die? what will people say about you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

1) you are more resilient than you think you are. those very things that set out to destroy you in life only make you stronger, or, at the very least, more understanding and compassionate towards those who are enduring the same thing, or will be at a later date.

2) there are over seven billion people in this world; don't let one person ruin your day. [easier said that done, i know, but we spend way too much time and energy thinking about 'people who don't matter'].

3) by the same token, everyone matters. this doesn't excuse certain behaviour or mean that you should put up with abuse of any kind, but i've come to learn that 'hurt people hurt people'; there's always a reason behind somebody's actions, habits, and responses. everyone has a story.

4) we spend so much time dreaming about what life will look like when 'we're done' high school, and then college, and after that we start thinking about what life will look like when we're married, and have kids, and/or find a career, and then when we have these things [if we do], we spend time counting down the days until retirement instead of embracing where we are now, when in actuality we should be treasuring the 'now' because we won't get our 'now' back later.

5) embrace the fact that sometimes, you just have to throw grammar out the window and write really long sentences like the one above.

6) put your phones down once in a while. the world will go on if you can't reply to a text right away or refresh your facebook feed every ten seconds.

7) laugh more. get around funny people. turn on a funny show. pick up a comic, whatever. just laugh more, and laugh loudly.

8) travel. the world is full of beauty, culture, people, and different perspective than what you will find in your comfortable bubble.

9) give. find a cause that's dear to your heart and donate some money. look for a friend in need of help and give them some of your time.

10) forgive. bitterness does nothing to the person who's hurt you, but it'll eat you alive.

11) if you still have breath in your lungs, you still have purpose, and it's never too late to chase your dreams.

12) let the people in your life know that you love and appreciate them, and how they enrich your life.

13) music is more powerful than you think. sing more, and dance more.

14) nothing is ever as bad as it seems or as bad as we let ourselves think it is.

15) don't be afraid to be alone; a healthy dose of loneliness can be good for you.

16) try new things. challenge is good, and adventure, better.

17) make-up is meant to enhance, not define. spend some time on your outward appearance, sure, but spend even more time on building your character, because, well, who you are lasts, and what you look like now will not.

18) naps are a beautiful thing. [plus, they give you a chance to an extra 'sit-up' a day].

19) never let success get to your head. never let failure get to your heart.

20) people will fail you, and although we may not understand why certain things happen to us or our loved ones, God will not. live accordingly.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

'jesus wept' is one of the most well known verses in the whole bible, and yet the purpose of it being in there is often overlooked. to me, this verse holds a lot of weight, because it's through this very verse that we're able to see Christ's ability, and willingness, to associate with our pain.

let me take a brief second to set the story up for you.

a man named lazarus got sick and died, and as expected, his sisters, mary and martha, were in mourning. not only that, but they were frustrated with Christ's, in their opinion, inaction, even though he knew the outcome all along. [check out the story for yourself in john 11:1-44]

let's pick up the story in verse 32.

"when mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

vs 33: "when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled".

and three verses later comes the most overly memorized scripture in the whole bible: "jesus wept".

according to verse four, Christ knew that his sickness wouldn't result in death, so why weep?

because, get this, he was moved by compassion for mary and martha and felt their pain. and you know something? he feels yours, too.

to the robsons, he weeps with you.

to anyone else who is feeling insurmountable pain, or any one of you who find yourself crying yourself to sleep at night for whatever reason, he weeps with you, too.

it doesn't take the pain away, i know. but it helps. at least i hope it does.

and if it doesn't, i'm banking on the below promise for you tonight; i'm banking on it for us.

"God is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" [psalm 34:18]

Monday, May 25, 2015

"okay, grab a piece on construction paper and fold it in half", my teacher said. "now, with the border facing you, write one of your names in bubble letters like this", he said as he showed the visual learners like myself what the heck he was talking about. "now, with the paper still folded, cut your name out, and then unfold the paper. voila - a monster for you to decorate!"

i'll have you know that i had the biggest and baddest constructo-monster ever to step foot in that classroom. so you can imagine my disappointment when i found out what i'm about to share with you when i brought my artwork home that night.

my parents loved my craft and beamed with pride at their personal picasso, after all, this piece was clearly refrigerator worthy.

"that's great, hunny", my dad said, "but who's elizabella?"

"daddddd", i said in a playful tone. "that's my middle name"

he looked at mom. she looked at me.

"what?" i asked, confused.

"your middle name is isabella, not elizabella"

my heart sank. it was as if my whole "mom and dad are such good compromisers that they took their two favourite names and made one name instead of fighting over it or hyphenating both" theory was no longer accurate.

that, and i was embarrassed, and a little ticked that my artwork took longer than it needed to seeing as how elizabella was two letters longer than my newfound middle name.

suffice it to say, i never forgot it again. in part because this whole grade four craft thing left me traumatized; in another, because my parents came up with a little jingle to ensure that i never forgot it again. [i can hear it ringing in my ears even now, "is-a-bell-a necessary for a bicycle?"].

this got me thinking, though. how many of us are walking around with names that we aren't meant to walk around with? labels that we have accepted from others, or ones we have adopted ourselves?

for you, it may be ugly, or fat. maybe you've been called stupid or useless, or have been told you won't amount to anything and walk around as if whoever said that to you was right. whatever it is, whatever false names/labels/identities you've believed about yourself for whatever reason, it's time to exchange your elizabella for your isabella and start believing the truth.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"hey guys", i said as my friends and i approached a group of six people sitting on a bench in a shady [in more ways than one] park on gerrard street east. "would you like some water?"

"uh no", she said. "we have beer".

"that's cool", i said, "would you like some water for later?"

"noooo, we have beer", she repeated. [i think she wanted me to know that she had beer lol].

so i went another route, and started including the others, too. one guy had a sick red new york yankees hat on [minus the yankees part] so naturally i started talking about the jays, which he found humorous, which naturally led me to laugh out loud, which, well, naturally led them to make fun of my crazy laugh. consider the ice broken.

we didn't talk about anything deep this time around, which has never been our agenda any ways, but we did share some more laughs, a few dance moves, and you better believe that my friends and i listened a great deal. one guy was ecstatic that he 'can now get married in ireland', another was blown away that we weren't with any organization and were handing out water 'on our own', and one lady shared of her health struggles and asked me if i had any underwear.

"not on me", i said. "well..uh..i have a pair ON me, but that's not going to help anyone". she rolled her eyes. [tough crowd]. "perhaps i should start an 'operation fruit of the loom' soon in the near future", i thought.

all kidding aside, being asked for underwear reassured me of the fact that there are so many needs out there. water. sandwiches. some change. underwear. a good laugh. you name it. and honestly, when you think about it, it really doesn't cost us much to reach out and help others. two of my friends and i took a couple of hours out of our saturday to do something practical, and the water, thanks to walmart this week, cost us a measly $1.88. helping others doesn't always cost us much, and is more simple than we make it out to be at times, not to mention rewarding.

i'll never forget the face of the older gentlemen whom we gave our last water bottle to. he was lying on the ground on the northwest corner of the infamous dundas square, blending in with the crowd and yet invisible to some.

"good day, sir. would you like some water?" we said.

i tell you no lies - his whole disposition changed in a matter of seconds! his piercing blue eyes popped out of their sockets as he sat up a bit and said, "ohhh yes! thank you" with so much excitement and gratitude in his voice. we honestly couldn't have asked for a better way to end our day.

so thank you, sir. thank you for reminding us of what operation hydration is all about: you.


operation hydration recap:

first outing: just me and 10 water bottles.
second outing: 21 water bottles, two of my friends and i.
what will operation hydration 3 look like? [stay tuned for the deets!]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

someone recently prayed that 'God would show up and show off in my life'. you better believe that i 'amened' that prayer, but i also added my own, that God would open my eyes to see the ways in which he is active in my life. ["keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence" - psalm 105:4 MSG].

well, this week has been ... cray cray in the 'God showing up and showing off' department.

i've been treated to more dinners than i can count, my brother bought me a sick bike, and a friend, a helmet. doors have been opening like crazy when it comes to the non-profit/ministry that i feel like i am supposed to start, friends rescued me at 12:30a.m. when i was stuck without the buses that were supposed to show up according to miway's bus app, and the list goes on. kindness surrounds me, love is kind, and God is love. [1 john 4:8]

truthfully, i'm used to this kind of provision in my life [i could tell you some crazy stories], but sometimes, God shows up in my life in ways i least expect it, like shutting doors that i thought should have been swung wide open.

i thought i had it all worked out. after a series of events [my mom being given a second chance at life after a long battle with cancer, an inspiring conversations with a friend, my 35th birthday etc.], i left my job in pursuit of my dream of working with the poor.

in my head, it all made sense. i would pick up a part-time serving job to pay my bills. not only would the money be good, but this type of job would provide a flexible enough schedule for me to get crackin on what i was put on earth to do.

so you can imagine how excited i was when i got a phone call for an interview at a local pub just days after i left my job.

i show up in confidence like i always do [i have mad interview skills], had the manager laughing for at least 3/4 of my interview, and walked out convinced that i got the job.

today, however, i wake up to a voicemail telling me that 'i have the best personality, but that he's decided to go another route'.

i felt totally bummed out, and i let myself feel bummed out, because, well, sometimes you just need to let yourself feel bummed out. but then i got up, got ready, and walked to second cup where i've been job hunting and studying homelessness all day. [even in light of disappointment, you have to keep moving forward].

we make all of these plans in our head, you know; plans of how things should work out and what life should look like, and sometimes, the things we imagine for ourselves actually pan out. but sometimes, they don't; sometimes, just sometimes, you have to let the good pass you by in exchange for the best.

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

trusting that He'll 'guide me along the BEST pathway for my life' [psalm 32:8] ... and trusting the same for you!

ps. OPERATION HYDRATION 2 going down this weekend. get at me for deets.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

no matter where life finds you, it's imperative that you spend some time doing things that make you feel alive. for me, that's writing letters [or emails and facebook posts] of encouragement, singing at the top of my lungs while using my hammy as a snare drum, going for coffee with a friend, and blogging. [for all 185 of you who read yesterday's post 'sex ed for the win & other tings', thank you].

with 'living life to its full' as my new motto, i promised myself that i would make some changes as i approached 35. not only did i write a list of things that i want to accomplish, as well as fun things i want to do this year, but i made some serious changes. i found myself re-evaluating certain friendships, and leaving the job that has employed me this past year in hopes to look after myself, and pursue my dreams of working with youth and the poor.

as most of you know, i took my first step a few weeks a go and organized my first 'operation hydration', with the second one just being less than two weeks away.

and yesterday, a local youth pastor called me, asked me to speak at his youth group about 'faith in action' and lead an operation hydration, which excites me and assures me that i am on the right track.

in addition to this, i reconnected with an organization by the name of st. francis table [a restaurant for the poor], where teams of youth and i spent a considerable amount of time volunteering a few summers a go, and am taking the trek downtown toronto on Friday to hang out with the crew there and see if i can assist them in any way. [stay tuned for details]. so things are looking promising.

in the meantime, i'm dilligently searching for a job that'll pay my bills, and sending out resumes accordingly.

that being said, if anyone of you are looking for some help, i could use something to do, and/or some cash. [though i am in need of a bike and am willing to work for that, too if you have one laying around]. i'm good at, but not limited to:

- painting [i was actually thinking of starting a company called iPaint uPay]
- cleaning [iClean uLean?]
- writing essays [haha]
- making you laugh
- public speaking
- babysitting
- other

so if you have something for me to do, holla for paula.

[of course, if you really need help and aren't in a place to compensate, i'm sure we can work something out; i have lots of time on my hands and would love to help!]

Monday, May 11, 2015

updates & tings.

1) i quit my job.

without going into too much detail, this is something i had been contemplating for months now. it wasn't a good fit, the commute was killing me, and it was a toxic environment for ME to work in, so after a series of events last week, i made a choice. a choice that doesn't benefit me financially obviously, but benefits my health, and well, mental health > money.

truthfully though, i feel a little lost. everything i've worked for in life has seemingly fallen apart [mainly my career and friendships] and i can't figure out why, which is discouraging in itself.

on top of that, i just moved to brampton and have no idea why. i've lived here before, but in an odd way it still feels foreign to me.

BUT feeling lost isn't always a bad thing, is it? i mean, how i feel today isn't permanent, and fresh starts can be good, and ... fresh, right?

and so i keep moving forward and trusting that God will 'guide me along the BEST pathway for my life" [psalm 32:8], while doing my part to make the most of every day and every opportunity he brings my way. we don't get to choose our lot in life, but we do get to choose what we do with it.

2) it takes next to nothing to make someone's day.

sometimes, i sit on my lovely sun-lit couch at home and get my work done, and others, i 'rent' second cup's wifi with a purchase of a tea, or my absolute fave, a caramel coretto. today would fit into the latter category, and am i ever glad i made the trek here this morning.

the barista lit up as i approached the counter, and said, "hi sweetheart! nice to see you!". i have no idea if she remembered me from months a go, or if she thought i was someone else, but i didn't care; i walked away feeling like a million bucks. [for all of my customer service peeps, never underestimate your ability to light up even the weariest of souls]. small things can make a big difference.

3) sex-ed for the win.

easy for me to say since i don't have children, but from what i've read, i'm all for the new sex ed curriculum. it's informative, and from what i can see, could play a huge role in preventing and/or stopping sexual abuse. teaching students in grade one about body parts, and the right to privacy is key, and informing them that there are different family structures [because there are whether you like it or not] is inclusive. of course there are other issues floating around, like people not wanting their children to know certain positions and the like, but wouldn't you rather have your kids learn these things from a teacher [who we would assume wants the best for your kids also] than from a peer? i don't know; i could be opening a can of worms here. take it or leave it.

either way, parents, the discussions that you have around your table [and the way in which you live your life] will have far more bearing on your child's life than any 60 minute class ever will.

paula out.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

sometimes, you have to take the first step alone.

a few people backed out of operation hydration this week, and another this morning, leaving three of us to hand out water. i filled my bag with bottles and made my way to the GO station to catch the bus downtown. ten minutes into the ride, however, the bus driver came over the loud speaker and announced that the highway was closed and that we would be rerouted to port credit to take the train. knowing that this would put me behind schedule by almost an hour, i contacted the ladies that were participating to fill them in. sadly, and understandably, they were no longer able to participate due to the time delay. so that left ... me, myself, and i.

truthfully, i was disappointed, and a little discouraged at first. this was supposed to be my 'big break', you know? the beginning of my dream!

but then i looked down and noticed the bag full of water bottles sitting at my feet and it hit me. the show must go on. after all, i spent some time praying this morning that God would lead 'us' to those who needed water and some love today, and even though the 'us' part was taken out of the equation, those i spent time praying for weren't, and neither was God.

so instead of turning around and heading back home to sulk, i got on the train and decided to continue with the mission i set out to do, and here's what i learned along the way:

1) roadblocks are inevitable.

ask anyone who you deem successful and they'll tell you the same thing. every president. CEO. any ball player. your favourite author. you name it. anyone who has ever started something can tell you story after story about things they had to overcome to get where they are today.

the same can be said about you, and the same can be said about me.

i wouldn't be fit for this if i let a little inconvenient detour stop me from doing what i set out to do in the first place.

the truth is, roadblocks can stop you and force you to give up, or they can pave the way for comebacks. the choice was mine today, and the choice will be yours next time you face one.

2) as a leader, you can't just talk the talk; you must walk the walk.

i set out to do things like this for three reasons: one, to help people. two, to teach others that we're no different than the ones we isolate, exclude, look down on, and judge, and that everyone has a story, and three, to assure people that they alone can make a difference by showing them how simple it actually is to meet someone else's need.

i could have easily turned around and went back home after i found out that no one else could make it, and quite frankly, i thought about it, but then my words would have no backing; i can't walk around teaching people that one person can make a difference, and refuse to make one myself when no one else shows up.

3) you can't give away what you don't have.

i had just finished handing out a couple of bottles of water to two funny dudes who were chugging back their tall boys on the street corner [that's a whole other blog on its own], and realized that it had been hours since i had drank anything myself. i was thirsty, and the heat was getting to me, so i drank my last bottle of water. now, before you get all judgey judgey on me, there's a valuable lesson to be learned in even this: you can't take care of others if you don't take care of ... you.

[operation hydration 2 deets coming soon].

Thursday, April 30, 2015

sometimes, you just have to take the first step.

i've been sitting on a dream of mine for nearly half of a decade now [that sounds more dramatic than 'for five years'] and have recently decided that now is as good of a time as any to get crackin on making it happen.

my dream job? to bridge the gap between two overlooked people groups [youth and the poor] through eye opening experiences, practical teaching, and personal reflection.

i remember the exact conversation that opened my eyes to see that my dream was not only possible, but meaningful.

i may have shared this before, but i was hanging out with some of my friends in a soup kitchen one day when i noticed that one of my street friends had a tattoo on his neck. curious about it, i asked him what it signified.

"this is the date my wife was born, and this one" he said as he choked up, "is the date she passed away".

he then began to tell me and one of the youth i was with about the day his whole life changed forever.

he, like many others, found comfort in a bottle. and another. and another. until his very life consisted of making trips to the local beer store in attempt to numb his unimaginable pain. before he knew it, he lost his job, his kids, and lastly, his house, causing him to become 'just another' invisible fixture on the city's cold and lonely sidewalk.

i obviously felt his pain [who wouldn't?], but having my dad still around at the time, i didn't understand grief the way i do now. but ashlea did. and i sat there in awe as i watched a 15 year old girl from wichita, kansas connect with a 40 some odd year old toronto man over the loss of a loved one.

that was a defining moment for me; a moment where my dream of bridging the gap between what would appear to be two unlikely people groups became realistic for me; realistic because i just watched a connection happen right before my very eyes.

so here i am, 'half a decade later' taking a step towards creating my dream job, and putting my gifts, passions, and experience, to use.

mark my word. one day, i will have a place downtown toronto where youth [and whoever wants to, really] can come and stay the week or weekend, learn about homelessness and other social issues in the city, hear real-life stories that break down the pre-conceived ideas they [we] have about those on the margins of society, challenge the barriers of judgement that we have so easily built around our hearts, and have the opportunity to actually serve at local soup kitchens and homeless shelters and the like.

but for now, i will hand out water.

after all, every dream begins with a single step.

will you join me?

operation hydration. this saturday. downtown toronto. 1-3ish. get at me for deets.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

1) some days, i wonder if my friends realize how fortunate they are to have me in their life [or why it's so hard for them to express that at times], and other times, i convince myself that no one would notice if i disappeared tomorrow.

your mind [and emotions] can play tricks on you. do your utmost to guard both.

2) i wish that people could empathize with me, or at the very least, sympathize with my pain sometimes instead of writing it off and spewing nonsense [not directed at anyone specific]. at the end of the day, if you always respond to my heart [pain] with your head [logic], i'm most likely going to stop sharing it with you. [again, not directed at anyone specific].

logic has its place, but empathy trumps all.

then again, maybe it's time that i stop expecting people to respond to me the way i need them to, and start finding comfort from the One who understands exactly what i go through each day, and can actually do something about it.

in 1 Samuel chapter one we are introduced to a man named elkanah [didn't they have baby name books back then?], who the bible says had two wives: peninnah [clearly they didn't], who had children, and hannah, who did not.

it goes on to tell us in verses 6 and 7 that miss 'i have a really ugly name' provoked hannah [and kept provoking her] for years in order to irritate her. so not only was hannah dealing with an unmet desire of being a mom [something i can empathize with at age 35], she had this mean spirited and jealous sister-wife making things more unbearable for her.

her response? "in her deep anguish hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly" [vs 10]. so much in fact, that eli the priest thought she was drunk:

VS13: "hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “how long are you going to stay drunk? put away your wine.”

VS15: “not so, my lord,” hannah replied, “i am a woman who is deeply troubled. i have not been drinking wine or beer; i was pouring out my soul to the Lord. do not take your servant for a wicked woman; i have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

i have read and meditated on this passage of scripture for over a month now, and can acknowledge that hannah's 'coping mechanism' was indeed healthy and most beneficial, yet i find it exceptionally hard to put it into practice myself.

instead of 'pouring out my soul to the Lord', i drown myself in episode after episode of the next best thing on netflix, devour a bag of chips [the only time i'm glad the bag is half full of air], or try and spill my heart to a friend who isn't going to respond the way i want them to any ways, because, well, they're different, and their perspective is different.

the world will tell you that alcohol, drugs, food, netflix, relationships and the like will bring you the most comfort in life, and while i can attest to the fact that these things [or whatever your personal coping mechanism is] will indeed bring you comfort for a period of time, i'm starting to believe that hannah was on to something.


Monday, March 2, 2015

apartment hunting can teach you a lot about life.

1) things are not always as they seem or appear.

you'd be surprised at how many pictures and ads don't actually match what is actually being offered. take the one house i looked at this past week, for example. the ad said that a fully furnished bedroom was available in a huge house. fact: the house was small, really small, and the room was indeed furnished if they consider a desk and a bar fridge suitable for sleeping on.

i don't get it? why pretend that you have something to offer other than what you, well, have to offer?

let me take this a step further and ask why it is we feel we need to pretend we're someone we're not, or pretend we're okay when we're dying on the inside? [things just got deep, y'all]. whether you're looking at an apartment, at the people in your life, or even in the mirror, the truth eventually comes out. be real. be honest.

2) life has a funny way of working itself out.

i felt an incredible amount of pressure the past week when it came to finding the 'right' place to live. so much in fact, that i think i chose the wrong one.

i accepted a basement apartment out of my price range [i mean, it was doable, but i would have had to sacrifice my McDonald's coffee every morning, among other things] because i needed a place to live and felt i have to make a quick decision. i started to feel unsettled about it half-way through packing, only to feel even more unsettled about my decision after my new landlord called me five times that day, changing his mind about things we previously talked about and things he had promised me. after the sixth call, which happened to be at 9:30p.m., i opted out, and the minute i hung up, i felt the peace i was looking for.

but now what?, i wondered.

today, i found my ' now what'; a perfectly located, and much cheaper, attic apartment in a peaceful cottage-like home.

now, i may be jumping the gun here, as my hopefully new landlord still needs to call my references, but i have much confidence in my ability to choose only the best references, and am just as confident that i convinced them that i would be a great tenant in the few minutes that i had to do so, but you never know.

3) we are not meant to do life alone.

i'm extremely thankful for my friend who brought me boxes and packing tape, for another who offered her home, and another, her couch. i'm grateful for all of the 'check-in' texts and e-mails, and the friends who picked up the phone when i was feeling overwhelmed on the other end. i'm not sure what i would do without the friends who came with me to check out my potential new home, and gave me insight as to whether or not it was a good fit, and whether or not they saw any red flags [since i only see white and gold ones ;)]. and i'm most certainly thankful for a God who continuously guides me along the BEST pathway for my life. [psalm 32:8 NLT].

we're not meant to do this thing alone; we're better together.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

on Christ the solid rock i stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

i've sung that hymn on more than one occasion, but every once in a while, its meaning rings even truer in my heart, and echoes even more loudly in my life.

due do a recent death in my roommate's family, i've been asked to move out to make way for one of his family members to move in. now, never in a million years would i even compare the two losses; one being the tragic loss of his nephew, and the other being the place i've called home for the past two years, but both losses got me thinking about one profound truth:

nothing, absolutely nothing, is certain in life except Christ.

no job or position is guaranteed, people come and go, and material things - even apple products - can let us down. but God? God is constant. sure. unfailing.

i was feeling overwhelmed [and a tad bit lost] about my upcoming transition when i woke up this morning [and all day yesterday, too, if i'm being honest] and found myself filling my journal with relevant scripture today before work.

scripture like isaiah 26:3, which promises me perfect peace when i keep my mind focussed on God [the giver of peace], and continue to trust in Him.

or one of my more recent favourites, psalm 32:8, which reminds me that God will guide me along the BEST pathway for my life, which includes, but isn't limited to, the 'best' place to live.

when doubt comes crashing in, i can cling to Christ and His word.

when change surrounds me, and things feel uncertain, i can keep my eyes on 'hymn'.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

1) sometimes, the best way to overcome something is to be proactive.

confession: i get really upset and/or irritated when people cancel on me or change plans, in fact, my perspective is quite black and white when it comes to this: if you cancel, especially more than once, i consider you unreliable, and can't help but take it personally.

sure, i have an imaginary box full of acceptable excuses [you or your children are sick, you have to work, something tragic happened etc], but outside of that is ... well, i'll call it like it is, unacceptable, and even inconsiderate at times.

lucky for you, i have since 'chilled out', as two of my closest friends have suggested at one time or another, and have worked hard at not taking such things personally. the reality is, things happen, other things come up, and plans change.

there have been many things that have aided my new way of responding to cancellations, but my biggest tool in overcoming this has been to always have a plan 'B', that way i'm not 'losing' anything, or wasting time wondering why plan 'A' fell through.

for example, say i have plans on tuesday night after work and some time between then and now, my friend cancels. as dramatic as this may sound, the old me would be so disappointed that i would sit at home all night and sulk, but the new and improved and proactive paula would have already made secondary plans [go to the gym, read, blog, catch up on sleep or suits - hello, harvey specter], and will spend the night following through with those instead.

sometimes, conquering something is as 'simple' as recognizing a pattern in our lives, and being proactive with it.

2) don't worry, be happy.

i was on my way to work the other day and found myself stressing about all i had to get done the next day. a few friends needed my help, and though i committed to helping one of them first, i wanted nothing less than to be able to help them both. in my mind though, none of it was coming together timing wise, and i felt torn, and stressed.

all of a sudden, i 'hear' a still small voice inside me saying,

"don't let tomorrow's worries steal today's peace"

and with that, i took a deep breath, prayed a quick prayer, and went about my day; perhaps some of you need to do the same thing today.

[in case you were wondering, the next day worked out just fine].

Monday, January 26, 2015

no i.d. no family and friends in sight. no eulogy or even a funeral. just a simple tweet that read: 'a man, believed to be homeless, has died after being found without vital signs at a yonge and dundas streetcar shelter'.

a day prior to this, another nameless man was found dead inside of a delivery truck on a cold winter's night.

and a few days after that, according to CP24, another man lost his life when his makeshift shelter caught on fire by the very flame he lit to keep himself warm.

sure, the latter man has been identified, but far too many haven't. want proof? go and read the 'homeless tribute' board located right outside of the infamous eaton centre; there you will find nothing but a list of john and jane does, along with their estimated death date. [example: jane doe - august 2013].

sad, isn't it?

i mean, can you, the reader, actually fathom what it would be like to disappear without a trace? to live your life only to be regarded as a random death, and even worse, a nameless human being? i sure can't.

but the truth is, identifiable to us or not, like you, every single one of 'them' has a story.

take my friend 'joe' for example.

i met joe when i was serving in one of the soup kitchens downtown. within a few minutes of talking, i had noticed that he had a tattoo of a couple dates on his neck. curious, and interested in tattoos, i asked him what its significance was.

"that one is when my wife was born", he said, "and this one is when she passed away". i gulped.

next thing you know, he began to share his life with me and one of the youth i was working with, and before we knew it, he was telling us how losing his wife was so traumatic that he didn't know how to cope. next thing he knew, he was drinking. a lot. so much in fact that he quickly lost his job, and his house, and then his kids ... all because he didn't know how to grieve. [who does, really?]

he wasn't - and isn't lazy. he didn't choose to live on the streets, nor did he choose for his wife to die. but it happened. all of it happened. and he hasn't been able to get back on his feet since.

if his story isn't eye opening enough, let me introduce you to my friend 'kyle'.

working in the financial district with over 300 employees underneath him, kyle was more than successful. that is, until the day his company decided to downgrade, and being one of the highest paid employees, and also one of the oldest, kyle was the first to go.

to his bewilderment, his severance package ran out before another company could take his resume [and his age] into consideration. next thing you know, kyle no longer had a job, or a home. kyle was homeless; a hard working and successful business man was homeless, and yet countless people walk by him every day and judge him as if he's a low-life who chose to be there.

these stories make you think, don't they? and they should. because they represent a vast majority of those who struggle with homelessness, and contrary to previous belief, every single person you walk by on the street has a story...and it's probably not what you think it is.

what's YOUR story?

Monday, January 19, 2015

like a permanent fixture in the building i work in, i walk by him and his tattered paper cup every day after work. i should know, i dropped a twonie in it once. just once. but i make a point of making eye contact and acknowledging him every other time.

i found myself looking for him yesterday, though, because as odd as this may sound, he was the first person i thought about when i woke up that morning. soon after waking up, my eyes were drawn to the money i have sitting on my dresser in a jar labeled 'giving', and seconds later, i felt a very specific amount impressed on my heart, and just as quickly tucked that amount into my coat pocket.

truth be told, i felt nervous about giving it to him all day. i knew i had to, but how? do i just non-chalantly walk up to him and put the money in his cup without saying anything? or do i say something spiritual like "God bless you", seeing as how He was the one that laid this man on my heart in the first place?

here goes nothing, i thought. i walk up to him after work, put the money in his cup, and before i know it, i'm telling him that he was the first thing i thought of when i woke up in the morning. [somehow it didn't seem as awkward or creepy as it does now lol]. we talked long enough to exchange names, long enough for me to find out that he has a brother named paul, and long enough for me to notice that his cup, with the exception of two measly dimes, was completely empty. like empty. a cup that gets passed by 72 floors worth of people each day had two - two! - dimes in it. as in twenty cents. as in not enough to buy a stinkin gumball.

now, before you get your panties all up in a knot, i am not here to judge the passerbys; if you remember correctly, i started this blog off by emphasizing the fact that prior to this morning, i had only given this man money on one occasion. one. so i understand why some people just walk on by.

what baffles me, though, if i'm being honest, is the fact that a lot of people think that this man, this human being, is only worth the twenty cents that sat at the bottom of his cup. having worked in three different inner-cities [vancouver, edmonton and toronto], i'm aware of [most of] the preconceived ideas that are floating around about people who struggle with homelessness, and about poverty, period, and want nothing more than to 'destroy' those ideas, or at the very least, challenge your - our - thinking.

that being said, i plan on blogging about such topics over the next little while, so stay tuned for ... well, my two cents.

Monday, January 12, 2015

this may come as a surprise to some of you, but i've been in quite the introverted mood lately; a - something deep is happening inside of me - isolated mood. i got off social media for a while, locked myself in my room to pray a little, journal some, read a lot, and think way too much. but it's been good. and now, though i feel like i'm still processing, i feel like i'm through the thick of it and am about to embark on a new season in my life.

while some make resolutions each year, i choose a word that i'm going to focus on. last year, i chose ameliorate [to make something unsatisfactory better; to become better], and this year, i chose discipline [to train yourself to do something by controlling your behavior].

you see, i am quite the emotional being, and ashamedly, have let my emotions control the decisions i've made more often than i'd like to admit. i've quit jobs on impulse [though leaving my most recent one was in my best interest], stopped working out because i didn't 'feel like it', put a book or two back on my shelf before i could finish it, and the list goes on. i'm a good starter - a really great and passionate starter - but i suck at finishing, because, well, my emotions have been known to get the best of me. but this year? this year will be different, and though we are only 12 days into it, it already has been.

i've already read more than i did last year in total, made my bed every single morning before leaving for work at 5:30a.m., packed healthy snacks for the day so that i'm not tempted by the garbage that is way too accessible at work [small things count, too], and am proud to say that i have reached all of my financial and fitness goals to date. in fact, just yesterday i hit a milestone on the treadmill, a milestone that wouldn't have been possible if i let myself get distracted while running on it a few weeks a go.

it wasn't the first time someone tried to get my attention while working out, in fact, it's a common occurrence when i'm exercising in the gym in my condo. "do you know how to work this?" "do you come here often?" [okay, so i threw that one in there, but still]. normally i'd take my head set off and help where needed, but that particular day was different. that day, i felt compelled to stay on track.

i was on minute seven of running, which was, at the time, four minutes and one second away from beating my personal best, when a family of four walked in and surrounded my treadmill. like actually surrounded it. i look in the mirror and see them all staring at me and trying to get my attention. "stay focussed, paula", i thought to myself over and over as i was nearing my record. but they just kept staring, and staring. all four of them. i assessed the situation - were they in trouble? was there a fire? - but concluded that they, like everyone else who thinks i work there, probably wanted to know how to work a bless-ed machine. [must be my rock solid calves and amazing physique]. i battled feeling rude, but knew from experience that if i took my eyes off of the prize, i'd end up becoming frustrated, lose momentum, and miss out on what i set out to do in the first place, and i couldn't let that happen that day.

at the ten minute mark, the mom jumped on the treadmill directly beside me [even though there were six other treadmills to choose from] and continued staring at me, along with her two adorable children and her not so adorable husband. [sorry, lady, you can't win 'em all].

"stay focussed, paula", i said to myself.

a few minutes later, they left. and a few minutes after that, i beat my freakin record, only to crush it again last night. yeah i did. [enter fist pump here].

naturally, this got me thinking. life is like [sorry, forrest gump] my journey on the treadmill that day. here i was running my race, focussed on where i wanted to go, in the zone, and boom - out of nowhere came this purposeless distraction, forcing me to make a choice; i could have 1) let myself be distracted and steer off track, or 2) kept focussed.

aren't those our options when it comes to the distractions we face day to day? sure, some, unlike the above distraction, may not seem as obvious, or may be, dare i say destructive? [like a sin we're struggling with, or a toxic relationship we have in our life with a person we have invited run on 'the treadmill beside us'], but, really, if you think about it, a distraction is a distraction; no matter what the source, it sets out to achieve the same outcome: to throw us off course...

the choice is ours if we let it.

"therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" [Hebrews 12:1]