Alive

thankful

 

I had plans of making this really beautiful collage of photos. Photos that represented people, places, things and experiences I am thankful for. I had plans, but then I decided to be with those people, to talk about those experiences, and to add to the list of places I’m thankful for. I spent the day with my sister, and then joined my dad in the tractor and relived a bit of my childhood. I realized today that the smell of a John Deere tractor never really does leave the memory space in your brain. In traveling, I’ve come to really appreciate this time of year. Yes- it is beautiful and cozy with sweaters and scarves and leaves changing colours, but it’s the holiday of Thanksgiving that is so beautiful. A day dedicated to making you stop and reflect on the things you’re thankful for. Here’s my list, in no particular order, and totally incomplete. I could be here for a while if I listed them all.

Thankful for:

A country like Canada to call home. It’s vast, it’s beautiful, it’s safe, and it holds so many of my memories. I’m thankful that I can contact my local MP to help me out with legalizing forms, that we have a government that cares about us (really, we do), that our backyard is nearly a national park, and that I can really hear people yelling “Thanks for stopping by, eh!” I love it.

I am thankful for handmade cards and letters, transformation, music, tea, thrift store finds, the smell of a field, living in a new place, and my bed.

Travel. It has opened my eyes, and my mind, completely. Traveling the world has helped me see my home with new eyes, to see “familiar” people groups with a new understanding, more compassion, and a more simplified mindset. Although traveling has opened my eyes to a lot of pain, it has showed me that simplicity is incredibly beautiful. I’m thankful for the ability and privilege it is to travel the way I do, with the people I do, and how it is making me a better version of myself.

I am thankful for my people. I could say family and friends, but really, you’re one in the same. I’m thankful that no matter where I live, God brings people into my life that challenge me, bless me, and teach me. You make me laugh uncontrollably, cry at your pain, shake my head around when I’m becoming too selfish, and question my beliefs in a great way. My people come in all different shapes and sizes, and as young as 2 to as old as 85. My life would be pointless, boring, and quite lifeless without you, and I am blessed beyond belief to have such incredible people to invest in me.

I am thankful for food, sunshine, tea, handmade journals, scarves made by my mum, nap times, toddlers learning new words, biographies.

I am thankful for the challenge and blessing of loving deeply and letting go. I am thankful for it because each time I do, each time I allow my heart to cling to another, my eyes are opened to a new perspective. I am thankful for it because each and every person on this earth deserves to be loved, and in that moment, He has chosen me to be the one to love them. I am thankful (and must choose this one daily) to let go of the ones I love. Thankful because, by being loved, they now have the ability and knowledge to love others well. By letting go, I release them to go where they are being led, and His love gets to be spread to more people. I’m thankful this is a challenge, because I grow most when I’m challenged, although I never desire the challenge.

I’m thankful for education, for Canada’s health care system, for a strong Dutch-Canadian heritage, tea, nail polish, tax returns, beautiful nieces and finding money on the ground.

I’m thankful for the past 10 months. When I look at the state of my heart on January 6, I can’t help but realize a softening, a maturing, and a subtle growth in myself. I walked into this journey quite naive, and although I still believe I’m naive, my eyes have been opened. God has opened them to more of what He sees, which is pain, brokenness and evil, but even more joy, hope and restoration than my small mind could ever comprehend. I’m thankful that I said yes when He asked me to pack that first suitcase, no matter what or who it meant I was leaving behind. I’m thankful that He is more committed to my plans than I am, and I’m thankful that He led me gently as I resisted so often the destination He was guiding me to.

I’m thankful for harvest, Thanksgiving, fog in the morning, old and new friends, hopes of a new camera, Amsterdam, road trips and brothers that make me laugh until I cry.

Take a page in your journal and write out what you’re thankful for. And if you don’t journal, start. I’m serious. The way I’ve seen God answer prayers, provide miraculously, teach hard lessons, and bless incredibly is all recorded for the past 3 1/2 years. Each time I read them, I stop and thank Him for how beautiful He is, and for how He uses me and blesses me along the way. I’ll add that to the list. Journalling. I’m thankful for the reminder it brings that He is good, all the time.

What are you thankful for?

With Strength that is not my own. Sam

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Just 5

 

I’m giving myself 5 minutes to write this. I want to let you know what I sound like when I’m not  “perfectly” edited (although I know there are flaws on this thing somewhere). But I figured I don’t want to produce this perfect life, this perfect view of a life as a 23 year old, “galavanting” around the world as she pleases.  So here I am, unedited, just letting you know what’s going on with me.

This week started off… strangely. Sunday morning I woke up feeling like I didn’t belong. Like I didn’t belong here in Canada, that this wasn’t my home anymore, that I don’t really have a home anymore. Instead of doing what I should have done, I wallowed in those feelings for far too long. I tried to journal, but really didn’t want to process any of it. I was stuck. Frankly I can’t even tell you how I got out of it, although I’m sure it was God pushing my thoughts around. Monday and Tuesday were full of running around. I’m so blessed to have so many people that want to see me, I actually had to sit down and write out a morning, afternoon and evening schedule so I didn’t overlap people. (I love my people- I want to see them all). My wonderful sister is giving me work to do, painting her…life, which I’m so thankful for, to have something to “do”.

Tuesday I almost went into panic attack as I realized I need to apply for a working holiday visa when I land in the Netherlands, and of course, I don’t have the required documents to apply for that, so I’ve been trying to race around and apply here in Canada for those documents, all the while missing my friends, painting, visiting, and filing taxes (which is a story in itself- a good one!).

So, stresses from this week:

Visa’s

flight prices

feelings of not belonging

wanting to plant somewhere

 

Blessings from this week:

tax returns of a lifetime

pastors with camera connections

another monthly supporter

friends that love out loud (KJ- special shout out to you)

Mentors that will put it to you straight, and tells me to get over myself

God has everything in control, whether I recognize that or not.

 

And that is my 5 minutes unedited. I don’t know how often I’ll do this. Maybe it’s a one time deal, maybe it strikes a chord with you and I do it more often. I just want you to know I’m real, and not every day is perfect travelling this beautiful planet.

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With Strength that is not my own, Sam

 

 

 

 

Oh I just, I just want to be like you

I couldn’t fit all the words in a status update on Facebook, and I made myself too busy to write it on real paper in order to fly it to you on time, but I have a few things to say to you, and I want the world to know. I want them to know them woman I know, to hear stories of your faithfulness, your successes, your glory moments. Sadly I don’t have many photos of us, so let’s start planning our family photos for October right now, ok?

Mum,

Right now I’m staring out the window of my house in Hawaii, I can see the ocean from where I sit, but even more so I see the rain pouring down in front of me. It reminds me of all those times growing up as kids where our whole family would make it’s way out to the front porch on the farm and watch the thunderstorms. It’s a simple little memory, but it proves my point: you wanted us to be together. From matching dresses lined up in the church pews, to devotions time at breakfast, communal baths and sharing rooms, we were together, and that has made all the difference. You taught me that even if you have nothing, you still have each other, and whether you like it or not, your family will be there waiting for you.

One thing I remember most about you is your honesty, how you are willing to say what’s going onside of  that beautiful brain of yours, even if it’s a short sentence of “I’m not sure where I’m at right now.” Your honesty has challenged me- in good and bad ways- but has been such an encouragement. When I’d come home from school upset because I was being teased, you always just told me “If they don’t like you, that’s their loss- you just go on being you and ignore them. They’ll come around one day.” You never told me to change, you never gave in to my desperate pleas to buy me name brand anything, because those things didn’t matter. What mattered to you was being real, being honest about where you’re at, being Christ-like, and having fun.

I woke up this morning thinking about how sad I was that I wasn’t going to be with you today. I imagined the look on your face as you walked into your surprise birthday party last night (I won’t say the number…) and wished I could be there, but we both know that God’s plans are not our plans, and I rest easy knowing we are both incredibly blessed. But as I picked up my journal I started thinking “Today is Mother’s Day, and although I’m not a mum, in God’s timing I will be. What kind of mum do I want to be?” And I thought of you. I want to be a mum who encourages her children to be who God created them to be, to release them from my expectations and let them be free to be themselves. I want to be a mum who treasures quality time with each child individually, who takes the time to nurture them one by one, and shows them the joy of having a big family. One day I dream of being the woman that people shake their heads at because she cheers so loud, celebrates every small achievement, and stops in the middle of her day to drop to her knees in prayer with her babies. I want to be “that mum”. I want to be the mum that has little eyes rolling at me because of my simplicity, but at the same time, those eyes know that in a heartbeat, I’d be there fighting with them. “If you need me call me, no matter where you are, no matter how far, don’t worry, baby.” That will be me.

And how can I guarantee that will be me? By letting that be me, right now. I need to live those words out now, and for that example I look to you. Even this past week I called you, and as you walked around making dinner for my lucky dad, I got to pour my heart out to you, to tell you about all the tears I cried this week, about all these fears I’ve had to get over. And you didn’t rush me or interrupt me, you just listened. You found places where we connected, where God has been teaching us the same things and you related to me. I hung up that phone and was so conflicted- I felt so blessed to have you to talk to, but so sad that I wasn’t there in person before you with a cup of tea.

Mum, I could go on and on about you, and I need to do that more often. I need to let you know how grateful I am for you, how you’ve raised me up to be the girl I am today. Although it makes me sad knowing we’re over 7000km away from each other, I know that God has us both where He wants us, and we just need to trust Him. Know that I’m missing you from out here, and can’t wait for the day when you get to come visit me. I’ll show you all the prettiest places, take you to the sweet cafe’s, bring you to Monday morning worship where you can sing your heart out, and let you rest in the Hawaiian sun. I love you. I miss you. And I can’t wait until the end of September when you get to spoil me I get to see you again.

Much love, Mum

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With Strength that is not my own, Sam

What if..

What if we only spoke encouraging words to each other?

What if we loved unconditionally, without abandon?

What if you let someone before you in line at the store?

What if you stopped for a minute to ask how your neighbour is doing?

What if we  valued people more than time?

I’ve been having a whole bunch of different thoughts rushing through my mind lately. Thoughts about how blessed I am, thoughts about the future and what it has in store for me, thoughts about how that “me” has changed into “us”, or “we”. Jesus has felt so incredibly close the last few days, and I am so incredibly thankful for that. It’s not consistent that I feel Him, not because He’s not there, but because my perception is so weak. But the love of my Father runs strong and wild and free, and this is what He’s been saying.

LOVE.

Love here. Love now. Love out loud.

Sometimes I struggle to know what my calling is, as if God screams it out to each one of us specifically. But then, looking over scripture, I realize the common theme. Just love. It seems so simple, and really, it is. Sure, loving someone who doesn’t love you back seems difficult, but that love can change the world. Asking intentional questions, paying attention to people, sharing in their struggles and giving sacrificially- these are all different ways of loving.

What if you loved unconditionally? Would the entire world change? Probably not- but you could change one person’s world. You could shine some light into their life, and really- isn’t that all we’re called to do? Love and be loved.

“Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 16:4.

God is love- so show someone a bit of love today.

 

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

10 things I would tell my 16-year-old-self.

1. No matter how cushy it sounds- when people tell you to “just be yourself”- listen to them. You don’t realize how much time you’re going to waste trying to look like someone else, act like someone else, and love like someone else. You are a radical example of how creative God is- don’t try to cover that up. The world needs you- if it didn’t, you wouldn’t have been created.

2. Change is a good thing. In the next few years, you’re going to change pretty much everything that you know about yourself right now. I know you, and you’re going to resist change, but please, stop being so stubborn, and embrace it. When you don’t know what decision to make, trust your instincts.

3. Your prayers will change the world. The prayers you’re praying right now at 16 don’t sound too much different then the ones at 22. Some of them I’ve seen answered yes, and others, praise Jesus, have been a loud no. Be persistent. He hears each one, and He loves the sound of your voice. Keep talking to Him.

4. No matter what anyone tells you, you’re beautiful. This one’s a big one- you’re still working on it today. And you’re mostly fighting the whispers of children from years ago- so let them go. If I need to say this one to you a million times, I will. “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” S.O.S. 4.7  Scripture cannot lie. Now work on believing this one.

5. Don’t let money hinder you. In about 6 months, you’re going to go to Africa for free. Not because you’re lazy and didn’t work for it. Not because you forced everyone else to pay for it. Because your Father is known to provide. He’s going to ask you to do some pretty big things- and a few you’ll pass up because “you can’t afford it”. Hello. Your Father owns the world. I’m pretty sure you can afford to do something He’s asked you to. Don’t be so stubborn.

6. Read the Word. The most repeated phrase in your vocabulary will be “I wish I knew the Bible better.” So- read it. Study it. Let it speak to you. Learn with others, let God speak through them. You have one of the most powerful, inspirational, beautiful books in your possession- do something good with it. Oh and please, please, please- remember context. That will save you from some seriously embarrassing argument failures.

7. Joy comes from true pain. I hate to tell you this- but you’re not an exception to the rule- bad things will happen to you, and yes, even all at once. But I am SO thankful for what you will learn from it all. Don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned, either. Some of the best friendships you have today started by meeting someone in their pain and just loving them. You have been given a heart that feels- and it feels everything. Use that as a good thing. Use it to benefit others.

8. Love. Love- love- love. This one is going to blow your mind, are you ready for it? When Jesus said that loving God and loving others are the top 2 commands- there was a fantastic reason for it. Get ready- love-changes-everything. You can see it in the smile of a girl that just found her man, in the urgent embrace of long lost friends, the eyes of a child who feels seen for the first time, and the tears rolling down the faces of people saying goodbye here on earth. Love will change the world. And the best part is- when you give it away, it always comes back a million times bigger and stronger. It’s really one of the only gifts that keeps on giving.

9. Even adults call each other names- be unoffendable. You’ll hear it all, plus some. Just let it go. But unlike the names you got when you were 7 that attacked your body, these words pierce deeper and attack your character, something you’ve tried so hard to preserve. Do two things. First- pray for their hearts. Second- remind yourself who you are by reading about it in His Word. ( See point 6.)

10. Waiting is worth it. You can apply this statement to many areas of your life. Wait to let a man pursue you. Wait to go to school. Wait on God to give you another step. Just wait. “For those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will walk and not grow weary, they will run and not grow faint.” Isaiah 40:31.  

With Strength that is not your own, Sam

A Little Piece of Heaven

Sunlight streaming through maple leaves. Walking through struggles with sweet friends. Crying tears of joy after hanging up the phone, remembering God’s constant provision. When God called me back home for this season, I didn’t know what it would bring. I didn’t know the vastness of His blessings, and I suppose I still don’t. They never stop.

I think all too often we search for them- looking so hard to see the blessings, the extra’s. Sometimes I think they’re right under our noses though. I say blessed is the person who knows the abundance of what they have without having to watch it disappear before they realize it. I can’t get over this blessed feeling, and I don’t think I want to.

Last night I went to London to watch the play called “She Has A Name”. It paints the dark, painful story of one girl, Number 18, caught in the cycle of sex trafficking. The playwright wrote an introduction in the program, and one line hit me- “we are all just a degree away from being one of these characters” And how true? Change one small detail about my life, and that could be me. It could be my sister out there, your daughter, your son so confused that he gets himself sucked into that world.

I was asked a question last night about what I’ll be doing when I go back into missions. It is quite likely that I will find myself talking with these girls, loving them back to life, showing them how valuable they are. It’s a dangerous situation- and I was asked if it scares me. I thought about it a bit and probably gave an answer that was a bit confusing.

Yes. It scares me. I’m getting out of my comfort zone, going into an environment that should not exist. I’ll be telling girls about the Father’s love for them, when they only “love” they’ve ever experienced is something they need to earn, and will be beaten if they don’t do a good enough job. It’s dangerous, and yeah, it scares me. But what scares me more? The fact that I’ll be out there? Or the fact that if I don’t go- they won’t know my God? It scares me to think they could die without knowing real love, without knowing that someone out there is trustworthy and has made them with a specific purpose. It scares me more not to go. 

You know, it’s not just a human trafficking issue. It’s not this whole worldly thing where the problem is so monumental that it’s impossible to tackle. It’s really quite simple. The answer came in two simple commandments: Love God, and love others. Loving displays itself in so many ways, and I believe when you begin to love someone the way God does, you get a little piece of heaven. If that means extending a hand, writing a card, sending one extra invitation or hoping on a plane- do it. Whatever facet you have to love, use it. It’s the greatest thing you could ever do. And, biblically, the most important.

Again, I am so thankful for this season. It has stretched me, rocked me, refined me and amazed me. I have made new friends, I have sparked up old friendships, and seen so many sides of grief. I have never laughed more, cried more, or read my Bible more then in the past 12 months. And I can say that it has been incredible. Maybe not always enjoyable- but worth it.

Take a page out of your notebook and fill it with the blessings in your life. Write out what you’ve learned, about yourself, your Father, your journey and the people He puts on your path. Look at the whole thing and tell me it’s not worth it. I don’t think that’s possible.

With Strength that’s not my own, Sam

Average

Sometimes I forget that Matthew was just an average guy. I forget that he didn’t stand out from the crowd in regards to his ministry pre-Jesus. He didn’t have eloquent words, he didn’t have a “calling from the Lord” that He ran with until Jesus literally said “Hey you- follow me”. He was just your average guy. I assume he worked, had a family, did things that were “good”, and a few that were “bad”. He wasn’t some icon that people around him looked up to, he was just an average guy.

In fact, I’m pretty sure anyone who has ever been used by God has been your average Joe (or Susan). A while ago, I heard something that made me think. Plain and simple, I was told that God doesn’t need me. First it made me feel really unimportant. I mean, why would He create me if He didn’t need me? I believe we all have a calling placed on us, from God, so if God doesn’t NEED me, why did He create and CALL me?

I struggled with it for a long time. And in my ignorance, I didn’t once bring it to God himself and ask for clarity. I didn’t ask Him to explain it, or to tell me they were wrong in saying it, or even just give me peace about it. It wasn’t until I was trying to figure out what my next step was that I decided He was trustworthy with this. And He told me.

I don’t need you.

No lovely little reassurance of my self worth. No beautiful picture of my importance in this world. Plain and simple. He doesn’t NEED me. But He wants me.

I’ve had a lot of people in my life who have needed me for various reasons. Some have helped me by needing me, and some have hurt me and pulled me down. For a long time I’ve spent my days wanting to be needed. I believed that I would be fulfilled when I was needed. What a joke. Don’t get me wrong- being needed is a beautiful thing. But wouldn’t I want to be wanted, rather then needed?

See- God wants me. He wants my heart, my devotion, my companionship, my joy. He wants my heartaches, sorrow, confusion, my burdens. He also wants my talents, giftings, and my short falls. He wants it. He doesn’t need it though, because He has other children.

In my life, I am bound to do some pretty incredible things. I’m not trying to sound conceited or be boastful, but really, let’s face it- when you walk with Jesus, along with the trials come a lot of good times. Beautiful times. Exciting, fantastic joyful times. I mean, He came to give life, and life to the fullest- and if that’s a gift He’s willing to give me, I will fully receive it! So these incredible things are bound to happen! I’m going to help people, show them truth, lead them to my Father, walk through tough times, joyful times, and everything in between. And knowing this, it’s easy to fall into thoughts that tell me “God needs me to do this”. But you know what? You could easily do it instead of me. He could use YOU to do all these things instead of me. He doesn’t need me. But He WANTS me- and now my heart rests in that.

I am wanted. He wants me enough to pursue me every day, to give me gifts, to trust me with tasks and the hearts of His beloved children. And not because I am fantastic, or eloquent or an icon. Not because I stand out above the crowd, lead crowds of people, impress them all with my life. He uses me, your average girl, whether I understand my calling or not.

Maybe you’ve been waiting. Waiting until you understood more about what you’re called to do, waiting until you’re a better leader, a wiser teacher, a more “experienced” Christian. Waiting to act, because you’re not sure you’re good enough yet. Let me tell you- you will never be good enough- but you don’t have to be. Learn from Paul in 2 Corinthians 13: 8-9

3 different times I begged the Lord to take it (the thorn) away. Each time he said “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

See, we’re not good enough, but Christ is. And when we are honest about our weaknesses, He gets the glory, and the room to provide strength for us. He wants to do this. He does not need to. He loves to do this.

I am weak. I am average. And I am not needed. And these are 3 things that I love to say.

 

 

With Strength that is not my own, Sam