(Don’t) talk to strangers?

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I met these friends just two days before our adventure to Gatineau Park

Every little kid knows the rule growing up: don’t talk to strangers. And fair enough! The world is a dangerous place. Kids are vulnerable. You never know people’s true intentions. However as we get older, the narrative continues. Especially as a girl, I am continually encouraged to keep my guard up around people I just met, not to trust too quickly. Stranger danger becomes a way of life, a way of looking at the world.

While we definitely need to be thoughtful, wise and aware, I think that the intense and immediate distrust of strangers, the assumption that people are bad or dangerous until proven otherwise, is a communal mindset that drives us towards a more individualistic and frankly, more boring society. As children, yes, a blanket rule of thumb is required for safety. But as adults? I would argue that we all could use some more stranger “danger” in our lives. Not literal danger y’all, just a couple steps outside our comfort zones will do!

Choosing to interact with people you don’t know in a genuine and engaged way brings so much joy and interest to our day to day lives. It teaches teaches us about what true hospitality looks like and helps foster an encompassing sense of community that humanizes the “other”.

Friends have, I’m sure, heard me say it before, I may have even written it in the blog, that “strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet”. I don’t say that to be naïve. I’m not assuming everyone will like me and I’m not disregarding the fact that there are indeed dangerous people out there with malicious intentions. However, that is not the majority. Everyone you have ever known was a stranger at some point. Maybe you were introduced by a friend or had a class together and you got to know each other in what is societally considered a safe space.

But

Who’s to say that guy reading a book in the park isn’t also going to be super cool and share your love of skiing?

Unless you ask her, how will you know that the women sitting next to you on the bus has walked the entire Great Wall of China or that she has her pilots license or that she and her husband have the best love story you’ve never heard?

If you don’t talk to strangers you may never hear why someone would want to be vegan or how one goes about building their own sailboat or what it’s like to work in a brewery or what it’s like to be a diplomat in Syria. My parents always told me, “you can’t do everything”. They were right! But SOMEONE out there has done everything. Don’t you want to hear their stories?

Aside from being purely interesting, it also teaches us how to love more fully. Inviting someone into your life and into your space isn’t always easy and it may require a little bit of sacrifice. But choosing community and choosing hospitality is SO WORTH IT.

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In the woods, exploring with Remi, Jess and Mike

As many of you probably read last week I ended up going to Montréal by myself. While we’re on the subject, thank you all so much for the support! I received countless messages of encouragement after my plans got flipped on their head. Spontaneity and risk taking y’all, it pays off.  Now I could have spent all weekend exploring by myself but where’s the fun in that? I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and so I couldn’t wait to get to know these people that had been unexpectedly thrown into my life. Getting to know people and hearing their life stories was one of my favourite parts about my trip to Iceland and I didn’t see why Montreal had to be any different!

 

I ended up meeting people from all over: Scotland, England, France, Germany, China, Australia, Brazil, etc. Everyone had different reasons for traveling, they were of all different ages and we spoke about all kinds of things, from music to politics to language learning to sailing to what it’s like to be Canadian. I wasn’t just talking to strangers. I made friends. 

And although it might have made my mom uneasy, I actually ended up inviting a couple of guys, David and Frank to stay at my apartment back in Ottawa with my roommates and I as they continued their Canadian adventures. You know what? It made my week having them there. Aside from the fact that they were completely respectable houseguests, they were also fun guys! We took them to see the light show on Parliament Hill, went to a karaoke bar, went to Blue’s fest and also just chatted. My roommates and I felt a little lonely when they finally moved onto the next leg of their trips, after each having spent 4 nights sleeping on our couch!

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David and Frank, our couch surfers. They were trying to see if the cucumber would scare our cat?

They were strangers. Who quickly became friends.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made fast friends about people and welcomed them into my life. There are a couple of people I’ve met through blogging/Youtube who I’ve actually met and hung out with in real life. There are a couple of girls I connected with on Facebook before coming to university who are still friends of mine. My host family in Switzerland were total strangers and they were some of the most wonderful and kind souls. Speaking of exchange, my current roommate is a girl I met in the airport on my way to Switzerland 3 years ago. Our other roommate was literally a stranger.  And you know what? I love them both so much it’s crazy.

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Roomie love

I’ve made friends with strangers in the park and random people on buses and in coffee shops. I’ve had fantastic conversations with people I will never see again. I’ve gotten to go on outdoor adventures with friends of friends of friends because I decided to talk to them.

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More strangers turned friends!

It’s scary to talk to strangers. They represent a total unknown. They could be rude. They could be having a bad day (in which case maybe a friendly banter with you is exactly what they need?). Maybe they re someone unlike anyone else you know – and maybe that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe they have incredible stories to tell and maybe you’ll find them incredibly boring.

But try. Invite someone to have coffee with you. Treat acquaintances with more warmth and hospitality than they are expecting. Smile at the man standing next to you at the cross walk. Take time to step outside of the individual bubble we’ve all taught ourselves to walk about in. Start seeing people as the complex, puzzling, dazzling pieces of art that they are. I promise that your life will become infinitely richer with each story you tell, each face that becomes familiar and each human being you choose to call friend instead of stranger.

Until next time

 

Sam

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Ready for an afternoon paddle – with a bunch of total “strangers” as per the usual!

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m going to Montreal. Alternatively titled: When things don’t go as planned

Hi friends,

This morning I managed to SOMEHOW sleep through THREE alarms, not by 1 hour but by, count ’em, THREE. 9:38am…my alarms were set for 5:45, 6 and 6:15

And this did not mean I was late for work. It meant my trip group left without me for THREE days to paddle the Petewawa River. If you know me in person, you’ll know I’ve been talking about this trip since May. It was going to be my first whitewater trip, my second (and probably last) canoe trip of the summer and a real challenge. I took a day off of work, spent all of last night packing and organizing, and spent a night earlier this week at a planning meeting.

So when I woke up this morning, not only did I feel incredibly guilty for the inconvenience I caused my group (they waited for two hours and then someone volunteered to paddle solo) I also was incredibly sad. After I got off the phone with the trip leader, I sat on the back porch and sobbed. Being in nature and in a canoe is not something I get to do very often and it is something that makes me feel really, truly alive.

I was so upset.

However, as I sat on the back porch, I though about what I would tell me if I was one of my friends. What truths can I speak into my own life?

  1. You’ve missed the trip. They’re gone,  it’s over. You can’t change that.
  2. It’s ok. This trip is not the last trip you’ll ever go on.
  3. Everything happens for a reason. If you’re going to believe that God has control of your life when good things happen, you need to lean into it even more when stupid mistakes happen. Yes it’s not a tragedy but God still cares for your heart. You’ve learned by now that He always knows what you need.
  4. Don’t waste this weekend. Redefine your definition of a good weekend. It now can’t involve canoeing, so get creative.
  5. I’m going to Montreal.

That was basically my train of thought. I thought about it again, if I really wanted to do it.

And I decided why not?

I made a “summer bucket list” in April and one of the items I thought I was going to miss is “Go on a weekend trip to somewhere new, maybe alone or maybe with friends and stay in a hostel and have that travel experience right here in Canada.” Montreal isn’t exactly “new” to me but I can still go and have an adventure and meet cool people and wander around the city.

So that’s that. I just booked a Greyhound that leaves in two hours. I have about an hour to unpack and repack and then off I go. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m not going to edit this before I send it out, I just really needed to get it out there. Adventure is out there friends. Life doesn’t always go as planned but that doesn’t mean we should sit and sulk. Have a good cry (I definitely did!) and then get up and make the new reality work for you.

Until next time, Sam

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I optimistically got dressed even though I was sure I had missed the trip. As you can see, I was pretty upset. 

 

Praise and Puddle Jumping

Rain is often seen as a negative weather phenomenon. Something that ruins plans, keeps people inside and destroys things that weren’t supposed to get wet. It’s dreary and miserable and people pray for the sun to come out again.

Yet for me, so many times in my life, the rain has been a sign from God that He is doing something GOOD. I look back and the amount of times I was caught in the rain, only to have God grab hold of my grouchy attitude and teach me something beautiful are too many to count.

When I used to a camp counsellor, rainy days were dreaded, especially when they came back to back with no end in sight. It meant cancelled programs and sitting inside face to face with 10 little girls expecting to be entertained for hours on end. Let me tell you, there is only so many bunk bed forts and games of “Werewolf” a girl can take! One day, I was walking back from a staff meeting, rain boots on, head down to keep the droplets of rain out of my eyes. I was annoyed because skills were cancelled and I knew my sailing students were going to be behind, maybe even fail the class if the rain didn’t let up soon. Just as I turned the corner to my cabin I heard laughter and shrieking. Crossing my fingers that no one was hurt, I saw my campers, 13 years old at the time, jumping up and down in their bathing suits and barefoot, kicking up water and sticking their tongues out at each other. Almost on it’s own accord, my face broke out into a smile. I couldn’t even remember the amount of time’s I’d gone and stood in the pouring rain on the warm sidewalk in my home town, dancing and laughing as the puddles grew around my ankles. So much fun! Instead of hiding inside, my girls and I spent at least an hour, running around in the rain. We were the only ones out and there was so much joy and fun to be found when we stopped fighting what seemed like bad luck and started making it work for us.

Another time I went for a walk around the city with a couple of friends. It was our first week back from summer vacation and we walked and walked and talked for hours, catching up on everything we had missed. On the way home, we wandered past Parliament, where our country’s government sits. Suddenly the rain came DOWN. There was no escaping it. Even if we had wanted to go inside, there was nowhere to go. We starting laughing and running around, kicking water at each other, holding hands and turning our face towards the sky and letting the rain pelt our faces. I’ll never forget the beauty and pure joy of that night.

And once, just a couple of weeks ago, I got lost after taking the wrong bus. It was absolutely pouring rain and I was so far from where I needed to be. I angrily got off the bus, and started walking. Soon enough, my jeans were soaked through and there was no point even trying to stay dry. I pulled my hood back and stared at the sky. I was not happy. And yet, I felt a small voice inside tell me to start praising the Lord. Although I was walking down a street in a major city, no one else was around. I started singing the first worship song that came to my head, hesitantly at first and then really giving it, praising God with all I had as the rain pooled on the sidewalk, filling my running shoes and making mascara run down my cheeks. It was one of the most beautiful and intimate moments I had had with God in a long time.

As I walked home that night, I heard God’s voice reminding me of truths I have known for years but seemed to have forgotten in the chaos that is university. He reminded me that I am called to praise him through all circumstances. He reminded me that there is beauty in ugly things, in endings and in struggles and in rain. He reminded me that rain will always end, the sun will come. But he also reminded me that I do not have to hide. Rain will not melt me. Neither will the rainy seasons of life. If we choose to praise through the gray seasons of life, how much more quickly they will pass!

Someone I went to high school with died a couple of weeks ago at 19. I don’t know how many more days God will give me on this earth but I yearn to fill each one of them with joy and adventure. I will not risk being kept inside by rain. I will not give up mountain climbing, but I might get there by puddle jumping. And I’m telling you, splashing and dancing in the rain really is fun.

Now, as I sit in the sunroom at the back of my apartment, I listen to the rain fall and the thunder roll. God is quietly reminding me that He made me to be a storyteller and a writer and that I have neglected that dream to follow others. I hope to make a place here, on this blog to dream, encourage, write, praise, pray, and learn. I pray that I continue to pursue being more Christ-like and more Sam-like each and everyday.

After all, growth can only happen after it rains

-Until next time, Sam

(p.s. I listened to the Wanted On Voyage album by George Ezra while I wrote this if you’d like to listen along <3)

 

Books and Bike Rides

I’m supposed to be studying Arabic. After a couple of weeks of stalling, my tutor has promised a vocabulary test on Tuesday. Instead, I am sitting on my back porch watching the streaky pink clouds created by the sunset. So much beauty in something ending eh?

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My actual view at this exact moment! Yay for the back porch! Yay for blurry photos!
I’m thinking about what it is like to have a different kind of summer than the ones I am used to. I am used to morning dips and constantly having no voice from singing songs all day and watching kids thrive and succeed and being tired and happy constantly.

Now, I’m remembering how lovely and foreign it feels to have down time. I literally cannot think back to a time (probably grade 8?) when I wasn’t happily but exhaustingly overcommitted. It’s funny because my roommates joke “you’re never home!” and I feel like I’m home more than I have been in years.

I am remembering the joy of sitting in a public library and drinking in an entire novel in one night. I am making last minute plans to ride bikes along the canal or sit and chat in the park at dusk.

I am challenging myself. I wrote on my (very long, because I do love being busy) summer bucket list that I wanted to “learn a new skill….leaving camp doesn’t mean leaving behind that curious, inquisitive and eager to grow part of me” Every summer at Kitchi I chose one new skill to learn. Some of them I took to more than others – last year I really truly committed to improving my solo canoe skills. I didn’t want that to end this year. Surprisingly, I’ve realized that I really like rock climbing. Despite being unarguably terrible at it, there is something wonderful about having so much room to learn and improve.

I’ve also thrown myself head first into improving my outdoor skills. I’ve already gone on my first canoe trip to Algonquin park, assisted with teaching a beginner canoe course, and spent a day running a river in Quebec down big rapids, qualifying myself for the “white water list” at the Ottawa Canoe Camping Club; now I am able to go on more whitewater trips and continue to improve my eddy hopping and ability to “play” in rapids.

I’m remembering how to say no. To go to bed early and not feel like I’m missing out on my one and only chance to socialize. To be ok with not going climbing tonight because I paddled all day yesterday and not every day has to be crazy and full. I’m remembering that it’s ok to not have plans for a night, that sometimes reading on the porch and eating a good dinner and having a shower and going to bed is a perfect and wonderful and happy evening. I’m remembering how it feels to not have 20 things “to do” hanging over my head and how it feels to have plans that are flexible. I thrive being busy but I am also embracing quiet downtime (especially since I know it will disappear come September). This season of freedom and flexibility is rare.

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I’m meeting with an Arabic tutor and for the first time, I feel as though I can actually speak Arabic. Some days I leave our sessions wanting to sing and dance because I am so proud of myself and others I’m so frustrated with what feels like a lack of progress that I feel like I could cry. But I am learning. I am actually talking. I am listening to music and reading Arabic poetry and pinning cue cards with tricky words up in my office. I am pursuing language for the sake of it and I am finding more beauty and skill than I have in two years of classroom learning because I want to be able to excitedly explain to my tutor (who is such a gem of a human) that I saw Justin Trudeau at work rather than stressing about getting 62% on a midterm.

Speaking of work – holy cow, I am learning so much. Some days I come home and wonder why I am bothering to sit in a cubicle and reclassify files. But most of the time, I am overwhelmed by how much I am learning and how applicable it is to my studies. For those of you who don’t know (hi new friends!) I study International Development in university and this summer I am a Jr. International Development Officer with Global Affairs Canada #blessed. In my first week, I was tasked with assessing project proposals from Civil Society Organizations looking for funding for youth internships. In on of my classes last semester, I had to write a project proposal for the final assignment and 3 weeks later I was assessing REAL LIFE PROPOSALS. It was kind of surreal and has made me that much more excited to go back to class in the fall.

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On top of that, my team is full of welcoming people who are genuinely passionate about their jobs. I think it is easy to see the government as an faceless institution filled with paper pushers and people who just want to make money. However my experience at GAC thus far has been mostly that of meeting people who believe in the work they are doing and are passionate about Canada and the countries Global Affairs works in. Last week I had the chance to sit down with a manager from another team because I’m really interested in the field of food security and wanted to know some more about what that team does in our branch. The managers are busy all the time but this man took almost 1.5 hours to sit with me and discuss his career path and what he loves about his field and his job. He was so passionate! I left inspired and grateful for the opportunity I have to interact with people who are at the government not because it’s always fun (hello bureaucracy!) but because we need people who care about their work. And the actual team I work with on a daily basis are fantastic. They are always encouraging me to go to presentations, listen in on conversations and trainings and helping me to make the most of my time there. I don’t always love sitting in a cubicle and I miss the island, but I have no doubt that I am blessed to be exactly where I am meant to be this summer.

So that’s where I’m at this summer. I am waking up early to read my bible with my morning tea and riding my bike to work. I’m drinking wine on a Tuesday with a friend and having hours long conversations about compassion and justice with my roommates and making curry and playing with our (Nicole’s) cat. I’m out on the water as often as possible and I’m speaking Arabic as often as possible. I’m reading and watching Netflix and growing herbs on my windowsill. I am meeting new people and spending time with friends I lost track of through the year. I am both incredibly busy and  overwhelmed with free time.

I am learning to embrace change and challenge and sleeping in on Sundays. How is your summer going?

Until next time,

Sam

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Grateful II

Things I am grateful for today:

  • the back porch of my apartment, twinkly lights and a place to laugh with friends

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  • canoe tips, muddy water and the exhaustion that only comes from spending all day outside.

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  • new and old friends, telling stories and learning what makes their eyes light up with passion

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  • pictures of my dog, floppy ears and confused eyes

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  • hot showers and lavender scented soap
  • warm rain and a warmer cup of tea
  • dancing in my living room, singing at the top of my lungs
  • the feeling of breathe going in and out of my lungs, reminding me I’m alive

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  • a challenge, being the learner rather than the teacher. I like learning: at work, in the canoe, at church, everywhere.
  • the frustration and ultimate joy that comes from willing my lips and tongue to form words in foreign languages, chatting with my Arabic tutor and practicing French with friends
  • walking home and noticing that the  sky is streaked with colour and the streets are lined with green as all the sun sets and trees start to bloom

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  • grainy skype calls, laughter and updates on friends in Australia, Cambodia, Switzerland and sweet Barrie, ON
  • peace that surpasses all else
  • learning more about my personality, how God made me and how I can be the best me I can be
  • plant sitting over the summer for a friend, my cute office filled with growth and life, albeit prickly!

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  • red wine and fancy cheese
  • hugs that speak a million words of love
  • a job that makes me eager to continue studying the field I grow to love more and more all the time, kind co-workers, opportunities to learn everyday
  • a bed, clean sheets and food in the fridge.

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  • a fleece sweater on a chilly day
  • walking to work, colourful buildings I pass along the way, listening to an audiobook about Nepal that sometimes makes me cry. Breathing fresh air before I get to the office

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  • my Marmee. I’ll call her from a canoe for the second mother’s day in a row. Knowing beyond a shadow of doubt she has my back.
  • my roommate’s cat, the nicest cat in the world. My roommates, my first roommates who are lovely and loud and funny and kind.

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  • books and blogs about countries I pray I’ll someday visit, photos of mountains and descriptions of chaotic marketplaces

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  • for home, for feeling at place in Ottawa. For having a church and a job and friends and community and a place in this large and busy city.

For Jesus, for giving me every blessing above. I am so grateful, so at peace, so filled with awe and wonder today at how much good is in this world and in my life. 

Until next time, Sam 

P.s. read Grateful part I here

40 Days of Friends

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In high school, if you were going to drive me home, you had to know one thing: my driveway was a place of heart to hearts. Friends would often take me home and end up still sitting in the car with me hours later, talking late into the night about school, family, friends, relationships, faith, the future or just about anything else we could think of. Even my mom came to know that if I wasn’t home when I had said I would be, she only to had to look out the front window and chances were, I’d be there, either talking to or listening to a friend. I’m not sure what it was (and still is) for me about talking in the car but I suspect it’s largely the total absence of distractions. No other people talking, nothing to get up and do, no where to go. For however long we sat there, we had each other’s total attention. And because catching a ride home each day was inevitable, these chats happened fairly regularly.

How often do we actually give people in our lives that kind of time to be heard? Not sure about anyone else but I am brutal at making time for people, especially if they aren’t in my pathway, if I don’t see them while just going through my everyday life. University is BUSY!  I have a full course load, I have a job that can be unpredictable, I volunteer, I’m on the executive of a club, I’m learning languages and studying and applying for summer jobs and going to church and, and, and, and. It’s not like I don’t want to connect with people, it’s just HARD to make TIME. If you know me, you probably know I’m really bad at keeping in touch with people. It’s not that I don’t love you, I’m just BUSY (or so I say, as I binge watch Netflix).

But here’s the deal ya’ll. Friends and relationships are one (of if not THE) most valuable gifts we have been given in this life. Whether it’s a sit down coffee date, a quick text to let someone know you are thinking about them, a FaceTime with those far away or a walking home and chatting instead of sticking your headphones in your ears, we all could do well to start finding and making time for those we love, those we miss and those we wish we could get to know better. Let’s be real, I bet you could name 5 people right now that you should reconnect with or catch up with.

SO. What am I going to do about it?

As you may or may not know, today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter. For Christians, it is a time of reflection and often a time when people give something up in order to better reflect on the gifts God’s given them. So this year, I’m giving up complacency in my relationships. I’m giving up excuses and I’m giving up my tendency to wave my hands and say “I just don’t have time”. The point of Lent is to, for 40 days, be super intentional about acknowledging Christ and preparing your heart for Easter. I believe that sacrificing my time and other hobbies to be present in the lives of those around me, and by taking the time to really see them for the person God created them to be is a great way to worship the Lord and acknowledge all He has blessed me with.  Friends are SUCH a blessing and I need to acknowledge that more by stepping outside of my own desires to watch Netflix or ignore people when I just don’t feel like socializing. We all want to feel noticed and appreciated and this season I want to make my people feel seen and heard.

SO. Here’s the plan.

40 days, 40 friends. 40 ways to celebrate the people I get to do life with.

Some of them will be family, some will be Ottawa friends and others old friends who live far away. Some will be acquaintances I’d like to know better and at least a couple will probably be total strangers. I want to see what happens when I intentionally acknowledge, appreciate, connect with, celebrate, communicate and love the people that God has placed in my life.

JOIN ME!! I’ve started making a list of those I want to connect with over the next month and a bit and I’d love if any of you wish to be a part of this adventure. Let me know if you’d like to connect. Whether you celebrate Lent or not, I think our friendships are so important to prioritize. And I’m being realistic here. Relationships are a two way street. I may not be able to connect with each one of these people this month. The point is, I’m going to try.

And one other important thing: I am going to PRAY for them. Each day, I’m going to pick one of the names on my list and pray intentionally for them by name throughout the day. I believe that prayer has power and that it is a way for me to care for my friends, even when they are far away or too busy to hang out. Friends,heads up! I’m coming for you, ready for all the heart to hearts, all the hugs, all the cups of tea and the texts and Facetimes and whatever else you need to feel loved and seen. I love you all and I look forward to sharing time with you soon ❤ And if not, know that you’ll be in my heart and my prayers!

I’ve gone through stages of my life where Lent has been either something I did just for the sake of doing and other times when I didn’t observe it at all because I didn’t want to be “just going through the motions”. I was convicted today that God doesn’t require anything from us; His sacrifice is enough. Giving things up for Lent and/or taking on new habits/disciplines is NOT something we have to do to be saved or to make God love us more, yada yada yada. The intention to grow closer to Him. Lent isn’t meant as a requirement or something to check off your list of religious chores but as a way to be more aware about your relationship with God and the grace that comes with it.

I just really love Jesus and I really love the people He has placed in my life. I’m super excited to spend the next 40 days thanking Him for my friends, lifting them up in prayer and HOPEFULLY spending lots of time listening to their stories and being present in their lives. Isn’t that what we all want, to have people who are really present in our lives?

Until next time, Sam

Soul-Deep Contentment 


My mouth is dry and my legs ache. They’ve been contained, squished into small seat rows for the last 9 and a half hours. I’m out of water and I need to pee but the people beside me are both asleep. I’m not tired although I wish I could sleep to make the time pass faster. I also wish I had food other than a crumpled half eaten chocolate bar. 

And yet, there is this soul deep, contentment in my bones. I am on an adventure, a knowledge that keeps a smile dancing on my lips all day and ushers a long exhale of peace from my lungs. So many times I’ve prayed, begging God to give me opportunities to explore, to experience the world. Now here I am. Tired and cramped but soaring above the sea, headed to a place I’ve never been. My heart is so full of anticipation. Today all I’ve been able to think about is how GOOD my God is and how he truly does give us the desires of our hearts. It’s not always when we expect Him to, or in the way we hope but He gives great gifts. 

Like 3 short days in a magical country because He knows it will refresh and sustain my soul’s craving for adventure. He made me an adventurer, a risk taker, an off the beaten path, challenging the status quo, all heart and curiosity questioner. He KNOWS what I need to be fulfilled. Obviously I can’t (at this point in my life) just up and travel the world whenever I so please but it’s these little gifts – the kind of crazy ideas that I get and just feel in my gut that the Lord is telling me to go for – these little things that remind me again and again how much he cares for us. 

As I’ve acknowledged here more than once I do have a bit of a one track mind – I tend to latch onto an idea and go after it with all that I have. What can I say, I’m a passionate woman. This all in attitude however can also make me miss the small gifts that come in between the big milestones in life. Over the last couple of years, God has been teaching me more and more how to let go of the reins so to speak. To trust that the big things will come…and to embrace all the little detours in between. Just because I’m a student doesn’t mean I can’t also be a traveller. And just because a particular adventure doesn’t seem to lead towards a future goal doesn’t mean it’s not worth having. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering when I’ll get to go to Nepal and forgetting that there are SO many other places in this work I want to see. God wants me in Nepal, He’ll get me there when the time is right. Until then, I need to start grasping every opportunity I get that makes my eyes light up and my soul feel alive. Whether it’s taking an afternoon off studying to go skating or booking a trip to Iceland just for the pure joy of it, life is for living. And that’s something I’m trying to learn to be “all in” for. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop pursuing my future – I believe God calls us all to make full use of every moment we have. Sometimes, the best and fullest use of my time is studying hard and going to 3 meetings, 4 classes, a study group and a volunteer commitment before going home and cooking dinner (heck yeah I love being busy!). And other times, I’m coming to learn, God gives us times that are MEANT to renew us and bring us pure joy – GIFTS rather than things to accomplish.  I can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to know a God who creates opportunities for me to travel and meet new people and breath in fresh Arctic air. 

I’m also oddly excited to be by myself. Probably the first time any of you have heard that coming from this extrovert 😂. But it’s freeing to just be totally self-governed for a few days. No one else to consult or worry about or check up on. I can do whatever I want whenever I want. Want to stop and have a coffee in a cute cafe? Imma do it! Want to spend forever in the museum? I can! I’m really excited to just have totally autonomy and control over my adventure. It’s really Sam’s grand adventure and no one else’s! The other side of it is that I’m excited to meet other people. The type that frequent hostels tend to have all kinds of stories and experiences to share and I can’t wait to hang out and listen and learn from other adventurers. 

So yeah, I’m not super comfy at the moment. But my heart is happy and I am grateful to be in motion. Over the Christmas break I saw the new Disney movie Moana and ever since I’ve been telling anyone who listen (which is not a lot of people hahaha) that I’ve never identified so strongly with a Disney princess before. It might sound silly since she’s a Polyonuasian girl who sails the sea with a Demi God and I am a Canadian university student but for real, hear me out. I’ve always felt really connected to nature and particularly to water – swimming, sailing, canoing, rowing. You name it and if it means I can be on the water, I’m there. But that’s the shallow part. Her intense desire to see more than what is in front of her and her craving to explore resonated so deeply with me. Her stubbornness in learning to wayfind reminded me of the way I myself have dug in my heels to perfect skills – navigation aptly included. Her love for her family combined with her inner pull to voyage reminded me of my exchange – everything seemed to go wrong and my parents wanted it all to just stop but I pushed back because I KNEW it was part of God’s plan for me. The desires and passions that seem to literally feel like a fire in my heart drive me. Just like Moana feels the call to the sea in every fibre of her being because it is who her people were meant to be, I feel the wanderlust and pull to the mountains so deeply that I can only believe that God created me this way. 

Most of all, Moana goes after her dreams and she has an incredible adventure that alters the entire future of her people. I want to be someone who goes after her destiny and leaves an impact on this world. I don’t need fortune or fame. But I want to use all my energy, talent, passion, intelligence, love and time to DO SOMETHING and show other people what it means to live a life of all out, soulful pursuit. 

My trip to Iceland may not be the epic journey that Moana takes to the island of Ta’fiti but I does give me a settled assurance that but by bit, day by day, bus by train by plane, I am following the complex and beautiful plan that God has for  me. Who knows who I’ll meet and how it will shape the way I approach my future adventures? If nothing else, I will get to explore beside towering waterfalls, have conversations with strangers over cups of coffee and breathe deeply in Creation. My soul will be satisfied by the place but more importantly by the knowledge that the One who created it cares for the desires of my heart. I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me. For now, I’ll watch the stars just out my window and dream about the geysers, glaciers and hot springs that await me. 

-until next time, Sam

“At night we name every star, we know who we are, we know who we are, who we are…we are explorers reading every sign” -We Know the Way, Moana. 


Cultivate sparks – a 2017 thesis statement

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Have you ever tried to write an essay without brainstorming first? Just started writing with the hope that your thesis will magically refine itself as you spew nonsensical and unrelated facts? In my experience this is usually a late night, last minute, coffee fuelled approach to assignments. Sometimes it works out okay but the papers are NEVER as thoughtful, articulate and compelling as the ones I spend (literally) weeks researching, mind mapping, discussing, and reworking. The university paper I’ve been most proud of was one where I changed my thesis several times, discussed it with my professor and made all kinds of examples and connections that helped me understand the topic better, even if they didn’t end up in the finished project. Well put together papers take time…and I need to have an outline to know where I am going. 

I find that New Year’s resolutions are too often of the former approach. We frantically make them, (often too many of them) without actually considering how we are going to make them fit together. How are we going to actually make it from the opening paragraph (January) and effectively bring them to life and expand them throughout the body of the year, wrapping them up in December in a way that is still connected? And with no grades on the line like there is in school, how do we make sure we actually finish the “2017 paper” rather than having it be left unfinished like so many other years aspirations?

As with a paper for a class, our goals for a new year need to have a theme. Something that ties them together, a theme, a thesis so to speak. That’s how I see the “one word” new years goals. The theme is looked at from different angles every day but it weaves it’s way all the way through, tying the year together from start to finish. Anyone who has been keeping up with my blog for a while would know that for the past few years I have chosen a word of the year. Previous words have included renew, courageous, and then last year still. I guess choose is not quite the right word…it’s actually a process of prayer and really asking God what HE wants this year to look like and what HIS plan is. I can make all the resolutions I want but at the end of the day I know that God’s plan is better than anything I could come up with – and He is faithful with what He promises!

That said, I actually knew my 2017 word way back in November…at least I thought I did. I was having a pretty rough semester of school and although it really did force me to be still and draw close to the Lord, it was also a season of frustration and questioning. Anyway, I think one day God just decided to take pity on me and give me some hope for the new year.

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Me, all of 1st semester (source)

One night as I was journalling I ended up drawing a campfire (guys I do NOT draw lol) and writing under it “Lord make my heart outshine my beauty. Set sparks that will flourish into fire”. I really felt that that was a promise God was making to me; that 2017 would be a year of sparks and flourishing. Ya’ll sparks are LITERALLY hot. I associate them with excitement and fresh starts and fiery, confident growth. They START something that builds and builds into fire that can’t be contained. They are small but mighty. They can float away into the night, lost forever OR they can be fanned into something that can be seen from miles around. Guys, I was STOKED (get it?) that this was the word God was giving me for the new year. Especially after being “still” for a year…yes, lots of growth and intimacy with God but like hello 2017.

“See I am doing a NEW thing! Now it springs up, do you not see it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert” – Isaiah 43:19

So I’m all excited right? You know, I’ve got my theme for the year. It’s January 1st, I’m in church and praising and I’m all pumped for the new year and (I’m so sorry Pastor Jay) I’m not listening to the message at all because I’m just thinking about what kinds of exciting opportunities God’s going to give me this year. And then I start thinking about the phrase “she will run through fields of harvest” which is a poster I have on my wall in Ottawa and I’m thinking about how in order to reap a harvest you need to cultivate the crops yada, yada, yada. So the word “cultivate” just keeps running circles in my brain. I’m sitting there panicking and HOPING that God is not trying to change the word on me hahaha. Sparks sound exciting, cultivating sounds like WORK! But I really opened my heart and prayed about whether I was supposed to be focusing on the word cultivate instead.

I slowly began to realize that God wasn’t changing the word…He was ADDING to it. He can give me all the sparks I want. But like I said, sparks can fly away into the night, never to be seen again. Fires take time to build. It takes effort and patience. God was promising me sparks but He was also CALLING me to cultivate them.

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Cultivate (transitive verb)

2. To improve by labour, care or study: refine.

3. Further, encourage.

So yeah,  it will be work. But anything worth having takes work

SPARKS!!! TO CULTIVATE INTO FLAME!! Ya’ll this is exciting. I know this started as a boring analogy about thesis’ and essays but it made sense in my head. My word(s) of 2017 are now not JUST a theme but a thesis. They have a purpose that I can run with, expand, and discover. I am filled with so much hope for this year and all that it will bring!

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gifts of God…” – 1st Timothy 1:6

May 2017 be a year of passion, of friendship, of growth and of hope, of curiosity and of cultivation. Let’s do this friends.

-Until next time, Sam

p.s. yes I know I’m a month late, sorry not sorry

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Plotting, planning, praying, dreaming

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Hello there 2017! Welcome! I’ve been waiting for you with an expectant heart and a whole lot of hope for the beauty that will unfold in the next 365 days. Well, 364 days now I guess.

Exactly one year ago today I posted my 2016 goals and wow, does that feel like a long time ago. In a way, it feels like it’s been three years because every 4 months, my life changes and starts a new chapter. It’s hard to believe that this summer, 1st year and this past semester have all shared a year. And what a year.

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Out of those three chunks, summer was definitely my favourite. Although I won’t be returning to camp this year, the memories and connections I made on Beausoleil will be carried with me forevermore; I am so grateful to have been a part of the magic that happens on Kitchi sands, one last time. Whenever I think about those months I can’t help but smile and for that I am grateful.

On the other hand, this past semester was a very challenging season for me. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t enjoying school. At all. My professors were nearly all terrible teachers who really didn’t care about the subject they were instructing and I just became so disillusioned with my education. My grades fell below the standards I hold myself to and I found myself often questioning why God had me in such a place. Other aspects of life were great; I enjoyed my new job, made some new friends, and joined the executive of a club. But school became a source of frustration, discontentment, difficulty and a sense of futility. It took me a while to be okay with saying “this semester wasn’t great”. Because my life wasn’t totally falling to pieces, I didn’t feel like I had a right to be frustrated. Honestly though I have never wanted a semester to end more in my life.

Now that I’m out of it though it’s really cool to look back and see where God was in all of it. It wasn’t a fun season but I’ve grown from it for sure. My statement that “my identity is found in God and not my grades” was put to the test. I learned to trust Him more, to remember that in all stages, His plan is greater and He is still God. I learned to be still and content in every season. And I realized that sometimes I will do everything “right”, put in the work and still have things not work out; and that’s ok.

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2017

A new semester.

A summer coop.

My first solo travel.

A fresh start.

And a whole lot of unknown.

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It would be easy to stay frustrated going into second semester but I actually feel so refreshed and hopeful for what is to come. One bad semester does not mean development isn’t what I’m meant to be doing. One bad semester does not mean I can’t learn Arabic. One bad semester is a learning experience that is going to STAY confined to ONE semester.

So now I turn to planning. I turn to praying and asking God what He wants my year to look like. I start plotting out my goals and journalling my hopes. I let myself dream about all the big and scary and challenging and wonderful things 2017 is going to bring.

I started deciding to prioritize sleep. 8 hours shouldn’t be a treat…my life is so much better when I get enough sleep.

I’ve started laying out study plans to get myself where I want to be academically.

I’ve resolved to stop being afraid of Arabic and start LEARNING it for it’s own sake rather than for the grades attached to it.

I’ve started applying for internships.

I’ve discovered where I need to say “no” in order to fully invest myself in everything I do; nothing I do deserves half of my heart. I want to be truly present in few places rather than distracted in many.

I will make time for people but also make time for myself.

I’ve promised to give God the 1st of my time rather than whatever energy I have left at the end of the day. I’ve resolved to ask Him more questions and learn more about what it means to live and love like Jesus.

I’ve resolved to rediscover what it means to be curious. What it means to learn because something catches my interest. To read books not assigned in a syllabus and attend conferences to meet others with the same interests. To go to office hours and get to know my professors.

I’ve started praying for more grace and wisdom.

I’ve started asking for more passion.

I want 2017 to be a year that often makes me a little uncomfortable. A year to seek that flip flop in your stomach before you do something new and the rush of accomplishing something you never believed to be possible.

I am going to continue to try to make my bed. It just didn’t stick this year haha but one day I will be a person who’s room is presentable!!

And on that note, I am going to have an open door. I’m not working in rez because it’s free. I want to know the people I live with. I want to have conversations that go past “how’s school going?”. I want to be a person of warmth and welcome. My door will be propped open more often this semester.

I’m going to stop buying things that don’t serve a unique purpose in my life, consume more intentionally and truly appreciate my possessions.

I’ve decided to work on being healthier, to eat food that makes me feel ready to take on my day, to go back to swimming, to go on more hikes, to prioritize mental wellness.

I’ve decided to stop watching Netflix…not forever, not because it’s inherently bad but because there are so many other things I want to do.

I’m plotting ways to see more of the world. Iceland and then, who knows where!

I’ve decided to write when I want to and not when I feel like I have to. I’ve decided to keep learning guitar.

I’ve sworn to journal more, to keep records of the beauty of life.

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A new year isn’t a revolutionary thing. Life isn’t going to change just because the date did. *Sidenote: it’ll take me a solid month to start getting the date right at the top of my notes* But it is a benchmark, an opportunity to leave the past in the past and start anew, to allow yourself to dream and plan and seek new visions. This isn’t an itemized list like last year. Rather, it is a global overview of values and actions that I want to take to make this year the best it can be. I want to put every minute of my time to it’s BEST purpose, whether that purpose is studying, laughing, truly resting, writing, working, talking or whatever. Everything has a time and a place.

I want 2017 to be a year of balance.

What are you dreaming of?

-Until next time, Sam

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P.s. Stay tuned for my new word of the year!! I’m super excited about the theme and vision God has given me for 2017 and can’t wait to share that with you all soon 🙂

P.s.s. I did indeed finished the sweater I resolved to knit. Thought you ought to know.

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Kill ’em with Kindness

Have you ever had one of those days where simply everything seems to go wrong? Maybe you get a bad grade back, have a fight with a friend, or you’re simply stressed, tired and overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel alone in those times. In fact, I don’t know about you but sometimes when I am having one of those days, I intentionally isolate myself , which is so not a healthy way of handling stress. I do it because I don’t want to bother other’s with my problems however we ALL need people in our lives who are willing to be our community, even when we think we’d rather just do it on our own.

I’ve written before about how much I value community and my desire to have people in my life who truly know me . However, today I want to talk about how you can be an encourager and a bright spot in someone’s day, even if you’re not a close friend. See there is one community we are all a part of; even with nothing else in common, we are all human beings. We all need to feel valued, noticed and appreciated. As members of the the human race, each of us are involved, inherently, in community with each other. We share this space and sometimes we cross paths with each other at just the right time.  You never know who around you may be having “one of those days” and just need someone, anyone, to step up and be a source of kindness and community.

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Random acts of kindness.

We’ve all heard this one before and yet we really don’t practice it as much as we should. In the past week, I’ve been really inspired by those around me to do more out of pure generosity and kindness. When my mom was here visiting last week she paid for the meal of a lady sitting near us by herself. No real reason, Mom was simply doing something to make a stranger smile (my mom inspires me all the time btw, she’s one of the kindest people I know). This week I came home after a super long day to a note and bag of treats from a couple of residence. Last night my co-worker Marley put a chocolate outside all the CA’s doors with a characteristic about us that she admires. Thank you Marley. Today I watched a university student sit and have coffee with a man who had been panhandling outside the Starbucks. I really admired her genuine interest in his life and the time and attention she put into their conversation. All around us each and everyday are opportunities to step outside of ourselves and really see the people we occupy space with. Candies, coffees and conversations are small moments that pass but the thought behind them is what makes a difference. Kindness is a simple way to remind people that they are not alone.

Recognize humanity. 

Treat people like people. I mean this in two ways. Firstly, a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a man named George while I was waiting for a bus. He was clearly intoxicated and seemed to have a mental illness. I watched him approach several people on the street to ask them where to find something and they literally pretended not to see him and kept walking. I’m not going to lie, sometimes the people I see downtown Ottawa make me nervous but this time I was determined to do what I know we should all do: treat him like a person. We ended up having a lovely conversation and you know what he said to me? “I’ve been here for 3 days and you’re the first person in Ottawa to be nice to me”. WAKE UP CITY. Come on! How many of us live here? How many of us walked past George in those three days? How many other “Georges” do I walk past everyday? This wasn’t an act of kindness on my part, it was simply seeing him for who he is: a man who I believe is loved and cherished by God and therefore should be shown love by me.

On the other hand: see humanity in those who don’t like to show weakness. Sometimes all your stressed out friend needs to hear is that they don’t have to have it all together. Don’t make people into superheroes. As weird as it might sound, I sometimes need people to remind me that it’s OKAY to be human, to have bad days and to fail at things. We live in a society that teaches us to act like we are perfect and ignore those who are not. Instead, let’s all see each other as flawed people and love anyway.

Lift people up; be an encourager

I want to introduce you all quickly to a friend of mine. This is Lila. I’m pretty sure her default setting is laughter and aside from being absolutely stunning, she is also one of the most joyful people I have ever been lucky enough to meet; she has a heart that truly echoes the Lord’s. I don’t see her very often and yet on an almost daily basis I am blessed by her.                             14705703_10207243238827022_5351751920915094075_nThat’s because Lila takes every opportunity she gets to lift people up on social media. She posts inspiring messages on Facebook in case someone is having a bad day and writes beautiful quotes on Instagram. Here, I’ll let this speak for itself:

“Happy Monday Kings and Queens!
Just a quick positive reminder of the day; You matter. You make the world a more beautiful place just by being in it. You are lovely in all ways. You are loved by the Creator of weeping willow trees and the stars in the sky. You are incredible.
NEVER forget this. I want to be a constant reminder to people that they matter. It doesn’t matter where you are at, where you have been, or even where you are going.. You matter and I want to make sure you do not forget it. Enjoy today beautiful humans– there is SO much out there for you to explore and enjoy. Praying for y’all 🌻☀️🌸” – Lila

How encouraging is that?? This is one of many quotes I could have chosen; notes and reminders like these often pop up on my  feed from this lovely gal. She knows how to love with her words, both in general messages like this and by publicly acknowledging her friend’s strengths and gifts (p.s. she deserves a huge shoutouts too). You don’t have to be all over social media but you SHOULD make a habit of speaking life and blessings over people. Tell your friends what you love about them. Tell people that you appreciate them. Remind people that they are loved.

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Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Treat people with kindness. Show love. Be generous with your time. See the humanity in another person and step into community with them, even for a moment. It could make all the difference in their day.

And sometimes, a hug doesn’t hurt either.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12

Have a great night my lovely friends. Until next time, Sam.

P.s. I always love when bloggers write what they were listening to while they wrote. I’ve had an acoustic version of the hymn Come Thou Fount and Rend Collective’s campfire version of Oceans on repeat this evening!