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

Does it even matter?

I’m one of many.

One of many people who chose to look. To look at the difficult, ugly, unfair things in life. To search for the girls “gone missing”, to ask the uncomfortable questions, to speak up when something doesn’t feel right. I’m just one of many.

Sometimes I catch myself believing this lie, the one that says “What you’re doing doesn’t matter.” Slavery is too big. Sex trafficking is too scary. There are more AIDS orphans than you’d ever be able to take care of. Even if you answer one hard question, 5 new ones will replace it. It’s too big.

I’m only one. But I’m one of many.

I see it. I see that the problems I’m looking at are much too big for me to handle on my own. There’s no way I can fix it all. There’s no way I’m able to walk the streets of Thailand alone and close down every brothel. It’s not possible for me to adopt every orphan, or to educate every man and woman about AIDS prevention on my own. I cannot stop every war, answer every question or soothe every pain. I can’t. But….

I am one of many.

What if you stood up, too? What if you looked a little further than usual. What if you did some research, or even better, got to know someone who wakes up every day and faces pain. What if these numbers, these stupid statistics, what if they became people to you? Instead of numbers, you saw friends. Brothers and sisters suffering under the hands of injustice, inequality and pain. What if? Then you, too, could become one of many.

One person, of many, who will sit idle no longer. One person who chooses love in the place of hate. You could be one who sees all the pain of this world and crumbles under its weight, forcing you to turn to Jesus to carry it all. Would you consider it? Could you consider being one of many? To stand in line with others who, although inadequate and unprepared, are not willing to go another day without saying something.

Will you choose to be one of many?

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With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Before the question comes

I love meeting new people. LOVE it. I love learning where they’re from, I love learning what kind of talents they have. I love learning what they’re passionate about, what makes them cry, what gives them energy- I just love learning people. But there’s one thing I hate about meeting new people. The one dreaded question that everyone asks.

“So, what do you do?”

As if that defines them.

I’ve come to realize that this question is a quick defining tool when you’re getting to know them. “Oh, you work at the bank?” (she must be rich) “Oh, you’re a missionary?” (she thinks she knows it all..) “Oh, you work in a greenhouse?” (they must not have gone to college) Oh, you own your own business? ( wow, they must be determined.) I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

One thing this question doesn’t do is tell you about who they are as a person. Are they kind? Does their heart reflect Christ? Do they spend time with the ones they love? What is the heart behind what they do? I so deeply wish this question wasn’t so important to us. Yes, I understand that it’s a “get to know you” question, but why not switch it up? Why not ask “So, what makes you, you?” instead of “What do you do?”

I’m not trying to come across as angry or upset, just more so concerned about how we plop people into status bubbles based on their occupation. Does it matter if someone is a teacher, rather than a politician? Or a mum rather than a pastor? Does it matter if someone works a minimum wage job, or they make the top ranking salary? Today Jesus over took me with His love. He showed me just how deep His love for me goes. He whispered love into my heart and reminded me again of how much He cares about me, how often He thinks about me. He just came and sat beside me in the middle of my struggle. He was caring. He was gentle. He didn’t rush me or expect a certain response from Him. He was just there.

And Jesus was a carpenter.

I want to challenge you (but don’t I always, fellow reader?) Before you ask someone what they do, work at understanding who they are. When you know who a person is, you’ll come to realize that their job doesn’t define them. The salary doesn’t define them. The success of their business doesn’t tell the whole story. Let’s work at breaking down social statuses, and work more towards developing character- of love, of justice, of respect and of courage. Let’s learn from Jesus and look beyond the tax collector status and see the heart that beats wild inside.

So yeah. I’m a missionary. But what makes me, me? My sass, which I have to keep in check. My heart, my wisdom, my love of words and letters and anything extravagant. My deep, overwhelming love for a Saviour I cannot see, and don’t always “feel”, but know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He’s here. Always. My family has formed and shaped me, but yet doesn’t define me. My love for life, for freedom, for justice and for peace. These things make me, me. And if you roll that all together in some sort of personality test and figure out what occupation best suits me, please, let me know. Until then I will continue where I am, loving the people He blesses me with, and dreaming alongside Him as He walks me through each day.

Much, much love.

Mile 88- Feb. 2013

Photo credit to the beautiful Sarah Griffith

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

 

 

Aloha, Ohana and one big beautiful Saviour.

I had no intentions of writing today. Actually, this is the last thing I should be doing. My list keeps growing as my hours tick away, but leave it to Jesus to draw me into His heart in this ridiculous time. I can’t even begin to explain to you the state of my heart in this moment, but I will try because if I don’t, you and I will miss out on this time, and I don’t want that. So I’ll start with the obvious, and move on. I have no plan for this post so it could get messy, but bare with me.

First off, I am extremely excited. I have been gearing up for this for officially 8 months, but deep in my heart for much longer. I am going to another place where God is moving, where He is meeting with people as they step out of their ordinary and up to a calling that has been placed on each on of us who call ourselves followers of Christ- to know Him, and to share our hearts with other people. I am excited to meet new people, people who will challenge, encourage, strengthen and teach me. I am excited to have some serious responsibility placed on me, no matter how heavy the load gets. I am excited to feel the warmth of the Hawaiian sun, to explore new places that scream beauty and creativity and I am excited to say a million “aloha’s” after all these goodbyes. I am excited to fly, and I’m excited to land. I am excited.

Along with excited, I am raw and sad. To avoid this would be a lie, it would be dishonest, and I’d be painting a picture that isn’t real. I have cried more tears in this past week than in my whole life combined, I am sure. My heart keeps racing back to Psalm 56:8 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” He sees it all. I remember what my mum said to me the last time I left and it was hard, “Be thankful you have a hard time saying goodbye. It’s proof that God has blessed you with people who hold you close. Be thankful.” And thankful I am, but still sad. And yet, God has blessed me with people who meet me in my tears, friends who are also struggling with saying goodbye, family that is selfless and puts their wants aside and let’s me pursue my dreams. I’ve been blessed immensely by a man who perhaps cannot see the bigger picture right now, but is trusting Jesus to lead, speak and bless. I am sad because goodbyes are hard. Being physically present with the people you love cannot be replaced by Skype, Facebook or letters, but I will remain thankful for each of those things because for now it’s all I’ve got.

So, when I left for Australia, my blog was a baby. I had only a few posts on it, and my only intention for having it was to keep people updated and informed on what was going on in my life in Australia. I had no idea it’d grow to what it is now, nor the fact that I’d learn to love writing so much. It’s become a release for me, one in which I learn more about myself and Jesus, and you get a glimpse into this crazy complicated heart. When I left in January 2011, I wrote a post on the 5th of January, and lo and behold, today is the 5th of January as well. Thank you God. Anywho. I left a quote from Donald Miller, a man version of me, and I could cry thinking about the things I’ve learned and experienced in the past 2 years since I quoted him. Here it is:

“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:
Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”

If I could write you a list of the things I’ve learned in my life, you’d either give up reading or fall asleep trying, because God has been gracious enough to let me endure struggles and trials in order to refine and teach me. This is the part where I turn to you. Take a look back, even if it’s just the past month, 3 months, 6 months, or heck- go on to your whole life. What has the theme of your life been? What has God been trying to teach you? Are you learning, growing, sharing? God is beautiful. I can’t say it enough- I can’t wait until the day I see Him face to face. This life has been given to you for many wonderful reasons- but the main one is to glorify Him. In all humility, I can look back and say I have been trying to do just that. Yes, many times I fail, but His mercies remain.

Thank you for reading all these jumbled up words. I can’t wait to see you again and hug you. Please don’t hesitate to initiate the hug. sunset

 

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Just one moment

It catches you off guard. You’re racing around, making yourself busy, checking things off the list, and all of the sudden it springs out of no where, like the first flower emerging from the snow.

Quiet.

Peace.

Nothing to do, no where to go, not a person around. These moments come few and far between these days for me, and I’m sure for you as well. And they most certainly catch me off guard. I’m so busy making myself busy that I don’t know how to shut off, close off for a moment and just rest. I hear God calling out to me to take refuge in Him, to rest and fill my cup, but busyness is so enticing. Being busy makes me feel like I’m “doing something” with my life. Think about it- when someone asks you what you have to do today, the majority of us feel better rattling off a list than we would if we said “Nothing. I have absolutely nothing to do today.” Busy sounds important, and that is so wrong.

How many times does the Bible tell us to rest with God? How many times do you hear God calling to His people to come to Him when they are burdened, to cast their cares and worries on Him. Over and over again God invites us to Him, and we respond with a simple “not yet- in a minute”.

I’m almost convinced God hates busy. Of course God loves work, He wouldn’t have created it for us if He hated it. He gave Adam and Eve jobs- so it’s not work that He hates. I think it’s the checklists, the things we add to our already ridiculous lives before completing the tasks we already have. He hates seeing “prayer and Bible time” at the end of the list, if it makes it on the list at all. Why? Well- how are you going to fuel your day if you eat late at night?

We’re looking into a brand new year, one with the chance to bring a vast array of things. Each time we start a new year, we mentally give ourselves a clean slate, a start over, if you will.  Take a moment to look over 2012. Enjoy the memories, feel the pain that was so real and present, praise God for a season that is different then any other in your life. Think about things you would have done differently, lessons you learned, perhaps the hard way. Take all of that and spring forward. Look at 2013 as new, fresh, wide open. God calls us to lay what hinders us at the cross and walk hand in hand with Him, and I think the last day of the year is as good as ever to start that. Challenge yourself to read His word more, to perhaps join a Bible study, a prayer group, go volunteer somewhere that you can share His love with others. And don’t underestimate yourself- all things are possible if you walk with Jesus through them, and He will see your desire to know Him more, and He will bless you for it.

Take just one moment- now or later tonight, and rest. Sit in silence before the God who created you, the God who knows the beginning and the end, who’s thoughts about you are too high to count, who sees each tear that falls from your eyes. Take a moment and feel the love He has for you, let it overwhelm you, and just enjoy the gifts He has for you.

Side note: I leave in 5 days. My heart is overwhelmed. I’m happy, sad, excited, scared, expectant, tired and no where near ready, but I’m going. My life is a bit of a mess right now, but I trust that Jesus can make something beautiful out of it. I deeply appreciate your prayers, especially for financial provision. I’m trying my best to keep my focus on God rather than my lack of finances, and also to remember the blessings He has already given to me. I’d like to wish you a very happy new beginning, and thank you for reading this year. I’m ready and excited to see what 2013 has in store.

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With Strength that is not my own, Sam

As good as it gets

Hey there friend. I’m so sorry for my lack of “blog etiquette”. I’ve been more then silent lately, for a few reasons, some good, some not so good- but I will continue to be here. I will continue to speak when I’m called to, and continue to pursue this beautiful heart of Jesus. Just recently I was reading through Colossians, and something really awesome stood out to me, so perhaps I’ll share it with you and you can soar with it!

“We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.”  Colossians 1.3-5

I just love that our faith in Christ and our love for all God’s people grows because of the hope that we have. And looking back on the month of May, I needed a lot of hope, and God is always faithful to provide. (Just a short sermon for today) 🙂 I’ve been dwelling in this peaceful place with God recently and am enjoying the beauty of limited words. He is so good to me.

I’ve also been doing a lot of preparation for my next step back into missions. I’ve been having a tough time explaining to people that I will indeed be a full time missionary even though I won’t be in a third world country at all times. So, seeing this as an issue, I’ve been taking some time to look into different ministries I’ll be involved in, and I am blown away. My heart is overflowing with excitement for my job, passion for God’s people, and sadness for the injustice and lies that Satan continues to throw at God’s beloved. With each discovery I’m making, my heart is growing, and God is confirming over and over my decision to just jump into this full time. Most recently I’ve been in the process of writing a support letter (oh yes, the dreaded finance questions), and I’ve actually been very excited about this! At the beginning of this journey, God promised that my support would come from very unexpected sources, so I’ve been eager to send out my letters and see who desires to partner with me! The letter is just about finished, I need to add a photo or two (oh the photographer in me), and then I’ll be doing a whole lot of stamping and address searching! If you’d like a letter, even just to know more details of what exactly I’ll be doing, email me at shine121photography@gmail.com

I do believe this may be the shortest blog post I’ve written yet! This is alarming- I wonder what I may have to say in the next one? 🙂

Thank you so much for being patient. And thank you for being here with me. I’ve gone through a bit of “Where do I even belong anymore?” lately, and it is so encouraging to know that you reading this do not expect me anywhere, as long as we can sit on opposite sides of the screen and love on each other. Be blessed!

I’m in love with Jesus. Just saying.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

A Chapter or two

You, my dear friend, are reading the blog of a girl who just got accepted on staff in Kona, Hawaii. Doesn’t that add some spice to your evening? It did to mine, that’s for sure! For an email I was waiting weeks to receive, it sure did catch me by surprise, yet one that is completely welcome. I haven’t had too much time to dwell on the details, much less the reality of leaving home for 2 years as a missionary, but I’m sure it’ll hit me within the next week at some point.

As I’ve been trying to explain to people what I’ll be doing in Hawaii, I’ve had this overwhelming sense of peace. You know that feeling when you let out a big deep breath, and your body just relaxes? That’s what happens when I explain how each one of my talents and passions will be put to work. Yesterday I was talking to a sweet friend, and she recalled a season in her life similar to the one I’ve been in recently. A time of waiting, of expectancy, and a time of refinement. On one hand, we are so ready for God to refine us- to help us overcome our weaknesses, to build better character, to show us our faults so that we can work on them together. The outcome is glorious, but the process is painful. No one wants to be shown their weaknesses, no one wants to be reminded, again, of their faults. It’s a humbling process, and I am no where near finished, but it’s a journey that I have to choose every morning when I wake up.

Aside from being accepted on staff, life is continuously challenging me. I’m trying to find a balance between spending sweet time with God and improving my skill in photography. I’ve been so worried that I am “not good enough” at it that I’ve almost become to obsessed with it! Again, it’s a balancing act, but if I’m not using my gifts properly to serve God, what would be the reason for Him to give me that gift?

I also want to ask you to help me with something. When I was preparing for my DTS, I spent almost an entire year waiting. I spent a lot of time preparing, thinking about what it would be like, avoiding real life in order to avoid conflict- it was a very strategic year. These next 9 months could very easily turn into something very similar to that, and that’s the last thing I want. So my question for you- can you help me live here, be here, act here, while I can? I want to be that old lady who dies, and their grandkids say “Wow, grandma knew how to live.”, and I think I have that potential. I think we all do. But I want to do life with you, because it’s better that way. So please, get in my face, be consistent, persistent, annoying even, but make sure I live fully. We can do it together 🙂

After reading through this, I’ve just shrugged my shoulders. It’s not eloquent, and the topics don’t flow well, and if you want an apology, I can give you one. I think in the last month I’ve written 8 different drafts, and not posted any of them, because they don’t sound good, pretty, peaceful. I almost didn’t post this one, because its not my style. But I guess if I’m the one writing it, it is my style. Sporadic. Random. Jerky. Either way, it’s me. So thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. ( I love each one, all 87 of them) Thank you for sharing your experiences with me, and for sticking with me through my roller coaster life. If that doesn’t get you a good reward in heaven, I don’t know what will.

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With Strength that is not my own, Sam