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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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