Tears don’t help

ONE YEAR

Full. Refreshed. New. Astounded. Challenged. Lost.  Broken. Healed. Surrendered. Encouraged. Worn down. Commissioned. Loved. Blessed. Homesick. Lost. Amazed. Taught. Immersed in grace. Surrounded. Overwhelmed. Rested. Prepared. Found.

I could go on. I’m going to try and summarize this part of my journey, the short 5 1/2 months. I was unsuccessful in doing this when I returned last June, which you can read about here. In church we’re learning about the importance of reflection, both personally and collectively. The thing about reflection though, is that sometimes you find things you don’t want to.  I’ve done it, and my goal is to learn from it. So here’s my reflection, my look back to a year ago today, and everything that’s happened in-between.

January through June rocked me. It stripped me of so many things I thought I was, and filled me with love, dreams and knowledge. I met friends that I’ll never forget, friends I’ll never know better, and friends I’ve never missed more. I learned to love community- even living with 17 other girls in a 2 bedroom flat. I was pushed, uncomfortable, alone, challenged, humbled and ever so gently lifted back up and taught to walk on my own feet. God went from being distant and quiet, to so near it was both beautifully comforting and alarmingly bold. I went from snow to ocean to mountain ranges. I changed from a broken child, to a still broken woman, but yet filled and fixed in so many ways. My lectures were like doors being thrust open- revealing God in new and powerful ways. And my friendships? They loved me back to life. Friend is easily interchanged with family. My friendships- they, by God’s power and leading, changed me the most. Never in my life have I been so free in my relationships; to have them know every regret, every secret, every desire, every dream and to be loved completely. It healed my heart. (understatement of the year) To instantly, at a moment’s notice, run to our Father together in prayer. To know that I’m not alone in my passions brings me so much peace and joy.

The tears don’t help. They don’t solve, sooth or cure a hurting heart. I’m not going to lie, I wasted a lot of time wishing I was back here. Sadly, now I’m caught doing the same wasting, wishing, dreaming, wanting to be in another place. I will never.ever.forget my time at YWAM RTO. I waited a year to get there, and it blew me away. Every expectation was  knocked out by day 3, and the surprises never stopped.

I want a reunion. I want us all to go back to our flats, back to the Strand. I want to sleep on the hardwood floor on outreach in Cairns Baptist. I want to host free sausage sizzles with that amazing BBQ sauce. I want to watch Peter rock out the salvation message, or watch Ben carry a 30kg pack up 2500 feet of untamed mountain. I want to sit around the campfire in Hidden Valley, roasting disgusting fruit flavoured marshmallows, and go mud sliding in the fields. I want to go on day long hikes with my team to prepare for a hike that no human can adequately prepare for. I want to sit front and centre with Gill in worship, praising our God. I want to be yelled at by Mark Parker, laughed at by Kevin Norris, and prophesied at by Ryan Booker. A part  of me even wants to scrape my knees falling off a skateboard at YouthStreet.

I miss the sun. I miss Castle Hill- the satisfaction in continuously beating my personal best, and enjoying some of the worlds best quiet times looking over the city of Townsville. I miss tea dates with Laurie at Castle Town, sweat moustaches compliments of Emma, cheese parties with Ben and Roger (sans wine ). I miss Australian sarcasm (never thought I’d say that). I miss getting in trouble from Nomes for being barefoot, and racing to the deck for morning tea. I miss Sunday funday, gelato on the Strand, dodgy guys calling us from their utes. (ok, maybe I don’t miss that, but it’s a memory nonetheless) I miss hanging out in our outside kitchen in the middle of Cyclone Yasi, Mal sleeping on the tile floor to keep cool-or just leaving our room for the left side due to Fanny and Emma’s synchronized snoring. I miss our temperamental showers and long lines after morning workouts, apples and peanut butter (???), hearing Aleksi talking to Lucy (his dog) on Skype in the cafe. I miss Tillman’s interpretive dance to Halo for morning devotions, small group discussions and prayer. I miss Asta’s intense facial expressions, and hearing Chello sing his heart out while rocking the dish washer. I miss hearing Ben give a champion’s speech on graduation day, and hearing Katie, when the guys are telling her she’s beautiful, yell out “Ya I am!!”. I miss Shey’s beautiful and strong leadership in worship, Abbie’s incessant laughter, Ben’s ridiculous attempt at dreads, and Joanne yelling “Je-SUS!”

I miss being pushed. Here I’m challenged, but I’m not pushed. Never pushed to dig deeper, figure God out, pursue Him before my own desires. There’s only so much a girl can push herself to do, and I seem to be at full capacity. I need the push from an outside source, and for some reason, I’ve made myself believe that those sources can only be found thousands of kilometres away. As much as I’d love it, this isn’t home for me. It has everything that is good and beautiful and lovely to me, but my heart does not rest here. My coat doesn’t get hung up, and whether that’s out of laziness, or out of the urge to be somewhere else I’ve yet to discover.

I’ve learned. Heaps. About me. About you. About God. About life. About being stable, and about being detached. I’ve learned about my fears, which include loneliness, commitment, inadequacy and wasting my life. I’ve also learned that I’m nowhere near finished learning. I look back on the year and smile through tears. And oddly enough, I hope to say the same about this next year, whether I’m off galavanting through Australia, Hawaii or good old Canada.

My adventure does not depend on location- but on my willingness to act, live, love and serve.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

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Well that was fun

2011 was FULL. Full of coming and going, new friends and old friends, small babies and big ones, sunrises and sunsets, laughter and tears, of pathways behind me, and wide open highways ahead of me. When I thought of writing about 2011, I didn’t know whether to cry, laugh, or just sit silently in remembrance, willing myself to be thankful. Sometimes it’s easy to be thankful, and other times it takes a bit of coaxing, and this wrap up is one of those times, I suppose.

I can almost separate this year into 2 equal parts, both of them having taught me lessons that I couldn’t get in a classroom. The first half, let’s call it GO, was so much more than I thought I needed. It taught me who this Samantha character is. I don’t understand completely, but I know MUCH more about myself now than I did last year on December 31. GO taught me more about this incredible, intricate, powerful Saviour I serve. GO taught me to love without holding back, even if the love you dish out isn’t reciprocated. GO also taught me how much it hurts to leave everything you know, but that there is peace and incredible safety in my Maker’s arms. GO taught me so many lessons I can’t write them all out, you’d be reading for hours. I loved GO. I cherish every memory, and miss it so much. There’s something about a season in your life when you leave all you know, you’re wide open, ready to learn anything you can. Because of the sacrifices I made in order to get there, GO had a long way to prove itself worthy, and thankfully, that proof is still bearing fruit. That was GO. And now, for STAY.

STAY and I did not have a very good relationship these past few months. It started off nice, but quickly went sour. When I landed back on this sweet Canadian soil, I received STAY with open arms. With it came my beautiful nieces and nephew, my family that I missed so much. STAY gave me my friends, my possessions, my comfort and my familiarity back. All these things I missed so much, I thought I’d never grow to take them for granted again. How wrong could someone be? As the months passed, I began to resent STAY. My questions to my Planner became more of a book report “When can I go? Where am I going? Who am I going to be with? Why do I have to stay here now? How can I make an impact here?” Gone were the sweet prayers of “In Your time, God”, I was back on track with being my old impatient self. STAY, in its own way, has taught me all the lessons I never wanted to learn. That His plans are bigger, better, and higher than mine. (Isaiah 55) That I need to rest in the Lord, and stand in silence before Him. (Isaiah 41) I was taught that I need to stop talking so much, and listen a little longer, a little harder. But I was taught good things too. Even if no one completely understands me, they still try. Even if I seem like a misfit in my family, they’re still my family, and it wouldn’t be the same without me. I learned a passion for photography that started long ago, but has finally been given room to breathe, grow and flourish. And everyday, when I’m open to it, God’s been calling out to me, giving me words to speak, prayers to pray, and love to give.

I could easily pick a favourite. I mean, who wouldn’t love to be in Australia and Papua New Guinea when there’s a snow storm outside your window? GO is me in a nutshell. Unpredictable. Adventurous. Confusing. But free. I’ve learned from both, absolutely, and I think God meant for this to happen, so what I learned in Australia could be applied here. You’re given a responsibility when you’re given knowledge, I see that now. Maybe I don’t always like it, but I see it.

So, 2011 is over. GO and STAY have come to a close, and now, I walk into a whole new chapter. It may only be a different number, 2012, but I see it as a chance to grow, to learn, to plan, and to love. So yes, I’ll confirm it, 2012 will see me on a few planes in a few new airports. I am planning on heading to Hawaii at some point to the YWAM base in Kona. It could be for 3 months, it could be for 6, it could be for more. At this point I don’t have specifics, but I have this. I’ve come to the realization that if I want friendships and relationships that look more radical than average, than I need to apply that to my life first.

And how like God to give me a plan that doesn’t officially “start” for another half-ish year? Another waiting season, I suppose. Care to join me?

Ah, maybe I’ll give you a few pictures of this last little mini-season of my life. Enjoy. Take some time to figure out what season you’re walking into, you’ll be surprised at what you can learn. Peace.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Dish it

Just four days ago I sat here behind this screen typing my heart out. Words were pouring out like a fountain, I was unable to stop them. But I couldn’t post it. After reading over it about 15 times, I realized that no one else could possibly follow it. My messy heart transformed itself into a messy blog post, and I feel its a bit too personal to display for you. I was rambling, which I’m famous for, jumping from one heart string to another. I suppose I was frustrated. But this beautiful thing happens when I write… I figure it all out. Or maybe I should say God gives me a new perspective, which is SO appreciated. Seriously. I think my family can attest to that. I’m a better person when I’m seeking God out. Duh.

Sunday was a beautiful day, for no particular reason except for God. I didn’t do anything spontaneous or overly exciting. I went to church, left a bit confused, spent some solid time with the family, and then went for a much needed walk. Needed both physically and spiritually. Mostly spiritually. I’ve been lacking in the joy department lately, for various reasons, and I’ve gotten sick of it. So I did what I do best, and I knocked on His door. “God, you’ve got me here for a bit for your reasons. If I’m to do this, I need an upgrade. I’m down with whatever you can dish out to me, but I have a few requests.” And so I rattled them off. Thankfully He knows what’s best for me, and He’ll deny the silly, selfish ones, but let me tell you, does He ever deliver.

I am blown away by God. Completely. He is so faithful. He is the best comforter I know. He sees each tear that slips off my cheeks. When I lack insight, joy, determination, patience, love or direction, all I need to do is ask Him. Today I was reading and came across this too-true chunk of script,

“Think about your life. What are the moments that have shaped you the most? If you were to pick just a couple, what would they be? Periods of transformation, times when your eyes were opened, decisions you made that affected the rest of your life?

How many of them came when you reached the end of your rope?

When everything fell apart?

When you were confronted with your powerlessness?

When you were ready to admit your life was unmanageable?

When there was nothing to do but to cry out?”

That’s from Rob Bell’s book called “Jesus Wants to Save Christians.” Please, don’t ask me what I think of the man and all the controversy surrounding him. What I do know is that this hit me. Big time. And no, maybe I wasn’t at the end of my rope, but I was close. I think. I asked for a few things, mainly joy and direction, and I feel like He delivered big time. And it’s funny, because I’m the type of girl that once she receives direction, joy doesn’t take long to show its beautiful face either.

So, these are a few things I’ve been dreaming of. And most of them are my plans, and interestingly enough, I find a way to rationalize each one of them:

-Return on staff at the YWAM base in Townsville, where I was earlier this year.

-Do a BCC (Bible Core Course) or SBS (School of Bible Study) anywhere on this earth

-Attend the PhotogenX course offered by YWAM Kona    (This one is my dream. Photography, writing, Bible study and exposing injustice around the world, all rolled into one? Check.Mate. Not to mention travelling to 10 different countries in one year.)

-Find myself a wonderful little orphanage in South Africa, fly there, and be Jesus with skin on to those little babies. Oh, S.A. There’s something to be said about the fact that our initials are the same. Predestined? I believe so.

And my friends, the list goes on. School. Invisible Children. Photography. A family of my own.(One day….long from now) My plans are limitless. But why not dream? Why not set my sights high, and see where I go? I understand that God’s plans are bigger and better than mine, but just recently I’ve come into a new heart knowledge of this. So dream I will. Watch out world.

What about you? What would you do with no barriers on your life? Where would you take your kids? Your spouse? Your group of friends? What would you give to someone if you could afford it? What passion have you set aside for something more “logical”, more “successful”, something less you? What would you say to that person you’re thinking about right now? Dream. Please, dream big. Bigger than you could ever think would be possible. Ask God to reveal your talents, your gifts, what you have to offer this world. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Oh! And one more thing. I’m dying to know… who are you? I’ve had over 3500 views on this thing, which is amazing to me. Who knew my thoughts could be so interesting. Please though, tell me your names. Here. On Facebook. In a text. Even better, in real life. Let me know who’s sitting on the other side of the screen. I’d be oh-so-grateful. Thanks.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Weird, but Beautiful

So I’ve gotten a bit more intentional about reaching out with my blog. Hence all the tags and categories and more of that boring stuff. So I get notified when someone is referred to my blog through Google, and it also (handy!) tells me what they searched in order to stumble upon it. Mostly it’s stuff about YWAM, transitions, even PNG! But yesterday was the best one yet.

Someone searched “weird, but beautiful”

I love that. I guess if that was the theme of my life I’d be pretty happy. I’m not really sure what this string of words is about, but I wanted to share that with you. It made me smile, hopefully it worked for you too.

On another note, I finished my journal from Australia. It was a long time coming, too. When I was there, I made it a point to write everyday. I guess you would know, but I love writing. There’s something about putting ink to paper and letting it all go, it’s my own personal release. I heal. I learn. I remember. I remind myself. So much happens, and I love it. I found the perfect quote the other day, it really explains writing for me.

“Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountain. God composes, why shouldn’t we?”

And, as I was warned, after coming back from such a spiritual journey, the journal went on the back burner. I found myself writing when I was frustrated, or at the point where I was willing to throw it all away. Please tell me this happens to you too. But I smartened up. I realized how awful it was going to taste to me to have to read a book of complaints years from now. And really, what else would I do with these journals? I write to learn, and I love when I can look back and see it. So I’ve added some beauty to it. Some (many) happy thoughts, great things that God’s been saying to me. Notes about friends that have really blessed me. A huge entry about the optimism I hold for my future. And in my last entry, I learned even more.

Right now I am grounded. As I finished off my journal, I did a bit of an overview. A review of this past stretch, gathered pieces of my heart together, and really focused on how I’ve changed, and what remains the same. And of all the times I’ve asked God to send me somewhere, anywhere, I’m settled here. Is that ok? Yes. For now. I’m satisfied with the fact that I’m doing what He needs me to do. I’m waiting, actively, and enjoying my life (for the most part). This doesn’t mean I’m grounded here, never to leave again. Promises like that aren’t mine to make. But it means that I’m going to bloom where I’m planted. I recapped a conversation I had with God when I was in PNG, fretting about my next step, and it made me laugh. How often do we worry too much about something that hasn’t even happened yet. Or better yet, we worry because we don’t know what will happen, but automatically assume the worst. That’s where I was, and God waited quietly for me to babble on and on, trying to figure it out on my own, until He whispered a simple “I’ve got this”, and I shut up.

And I guess with all these words, I’m simply trying to say that I’m still learning. I’m learning how to trust, and I’m excited to see where I can give Him more and more room to surprise me. I’m learning that His plans are, contrary to my instincts, much better than mine. I’m learning that if He needs me somewhere, He will make it clear enough for me to understand, and I don’t have to doubt my ability to hear Him. And even better, I’m learning to give it back. Give back the love, give back the blessings, give back the knowledge. And hopefully each of you is in a better spot because of that.

And when it all gets quiet, when the words stop flowing through the ink, I’m left overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed by the One who made me, and wants to know me. By the fact that my life is important to Him, and that I can always come back. Always.

Yet I still belong to You.

YOU HOLD MY RIGHT HAND. 

You guide me with your counsel,

leading me to a glorious destiny.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

Psalm 73v.23, 24, 25

love, love, love,

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

And here I go, risking it all….

Last night I was in bed, trying to get to sleep. I had had some solid God time that afternoon, and I was feeling good.  I read a lot, I journalled a lot, and I just talked a lot to my number One. It was indeed a good day. And sometimes I get the feeling that I need to share them, but yesterday, I just didn’t feel like it. It was my day, a quiet one, personal one, and I wanted to keep it that way. Ha, good one.

So. As I tried relentlessly to “will” myself to sleep, what song kept popping into my head? I’ll tell you. But first I have something to say. I may risk public humiliation for this, so you better feel pretty loved to know that I’m doing this for you. Yes, YOU, the one sitting behind your screen, only God knows in which country, sipping a latte/tea/coffee-of-some-sort/or hey, even a beer. Last night, when the lights were all out, the house was quiet, and my mind wouldn’t quit, all I heard was… Justin Bieber.

Phew. Got that out.

So. Why am I telling you this? Is it possible that God used a 17 year old musically gifted child (yes, I do think he’s talented), to give me a message? Actually, I do, I really do. Because this is what He was saying to me through it all…

“You know you love me, I know you care. Just shout whenever, and I’ll be there. You are my love, you are my heart, and we will never, ever, ever be apart. Are we an item? Girl, quit playing. We’re just friends? What are you saying? Said there’s another, and looked right in my eyes. My first love broke my heart for the first time.”

Now, to you, you could read a young boy, calling out to his girl. And until now, that’s all I heard too. But look deeper. I couldn’t get the song out of my head, and I can’t even remember the last time I heard it. So, in the frustration of my ah!-I-want-to-sleep-now moment, I asked God “Why, WHY, can’t I get this song out of my head??” And it’s like He sang the song right to me. Read those lyrics over, as if God was saying them to you.

Doesn’t sound so crazy now, does it?

Well, maybe it does. But I found peace in it. Because, yes, there are many days where God is not my first love. And how many times do we look back and say “I wonder how badly I hurt His heart when I did/said/thought that?” Yes, I’ll admit, it seems like a pretty far fetched idea, and trust me, I didn’t want to post it. But I know its something good to hear. And Justin goes on and protests, but I know God’s next lyric would be different. Because, yes, His first love broke His heart, but you know what? Our God’s good. He’s a forgiver. He doesn’t hold grudges, or dangle our shortfalls above our heads. He longs for the day when we’re together, fully, again. What a glorious day. Reminds me of the last verse in “Amazing Grace”, –when we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun. There’s no less days to sing God’s praise, then when we’d first begun.– I don’t know about you, but that, that sounds like bliss. Pure bliss.

My encouragement to you today: be ready to hear the voice of God. It’s fulfilling. It’s beautiful. And sometimes, it’s just a bit weird. But hey, who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?

Much, much, much love,

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Life after YWAM

Wow. Maybe I should re-introduce myself, it’s been a while. As you can all assume, life has changed dramatically since June 3, my last post. Since then I have graduated from YWAM, visited Leanne in Sydney, and made the long trek back home to Canada. Beyond that sentence, I don’t really know what to write. Life back home is hard to sum up. Its beautiful, its familiar, and its safe. It is so great to see everyone again, to catch up on everyone’s lives, and to be encouraged by what God has been doing back home. I’ve found myself in a time of transition, which in the past I’ve generally hated. Transition’s usually include messes, periods of frustration, and a whole lot of preparations. The thing about this time is that I don’t know what I’m preparing for.

See. I’m home. I’m looking for a job, I’m getting back in the swing of things, I’m catching up with everyone, but I feel at times my wheels are spinning. “What’s next?” is a question that’s almost as common as “How are you?”. And I know I can look at it two ways. I can see that I’m in an unknown area, a place where I don’t know what’s next. I can get frustrated, or I can see that all doors are open. I could go to school. I could go back to Australia. I could work and volunteer, and I can just be. JUST BE. That’s definitely something I haven’t been able to do in a while, just be here. Be me. Be in this place. That sounds beautiful to me. So although I don’t know what’s next, I don’t feel the need to explain why that doesn’t bother me. I’ve spent the past 5 months learning how to trust my Father to bring me where He needs me, and I’m not going to stop trusting Him on that.

So the other day I was reading from Psalms 77, and I something popped out at me. The psalmist says,

“When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted towards heaven, but my soul was not comforted.”

In my Bible notes, it says something about–lifting hands towards heaven– and it’s a sign of vulnerability and dependence. The entire thing just screams at me, because I know that I’m not depending on God. Yes, I want His guidance, and I definitely want to involve Him on decisions, but depend? Maybe not. I find it amazing how quickly you can forget what you’ve learned, and just trust in yourself. And for those of you who see the last statement, my soul was not comforted, also know that the psalmist later reminds Himself of God’s continuous blessings.

I don’t know about you, but I’m at a time in my life where I’m calling out to God and asking big questions. I get frustrated, but I remain honest. I talk to Him, I keep the lines open, and He remains faithful. And in those moments where I doubt, I’m not ridiculed or judged, but He gently reminds me how He’s always been there. Always will be there. He’s guided me and blessed me in the past, and I trust Him to continue that. So maybe I don’t know what’s next for me. Maybe I won’t know until I get there. But I do know that He’s with me, He hasn’t abandoned me. What about you? What’s next for you? Does it matter if you’ve had the same job for 15 years? Don’t ever stop asking yourself what’s next, because when you do, you stop moving forward. Let’s figure this out together.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam