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

Anticipating Greatness

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September, the season of endings and of beginnings. An exciting time, a nerve-wracking time, a new adventure time. It’s back to school, it’s the last of warm days and it’s beautiful and sad all wrapped up in one. It’s bike rides and trips to the Farmer’s Market and hugging friends you haven’t seen in a while, it’s saying goodbye to summer and it’s printing syllabi and updating your calendar. It’s when we look out over the school year to come, a fresh slate of tests not yet written and challenges not yet faced. What are you expecting this year? Are you apprehensive of what’s to come? I know I was.

This morning I woke up to an email from Blackboard, my university’s “virtual campus”; it was a notification that one of my economics professors had posted the syllabus for the course. As ridiculous as it might sound, my heart literally started racing and I was so nervous to open the file. Economics was my worst class last year and I am so anxious about going back to it this year, especially with two courses in the same semester, one of them in French.

This is just one example of the apprehension I’ve been feeling about second year. For me, summer has been over for almost 3 weeks, as soon as I left camp and came back to Ottawa for Community Advisor training. This year, I’ll be living in residence, watching over first year students and hopefully helping them to have a safe, fun and successful first year. That is an added responsibility that I need to account and make time for! I’m super excited about it but still! Tomorrow is the first day back at classes and I am definitely feeling nervous about all the work that is about to rain down on me and consume my life; but it will only consume me if I let it.

On Sunday I was in church and the woman leading worship said something that really stuck with me. It was about the difference between apprehension and anticipation. I looked up the definition of the two (as I often do) in order to make sure I clearly knew the difference.

Apprehension – anxiety or fear that something unpleasant will happen

Anticipation – the act of expecting or looking ahead to something with pleasure. 

It was one of those moments that I was caught off guard by the realization that this was God speaking clearly and directly to ME. I hadn’t even noticed the negative attitude I had been having towards the coming year. I was hiding my anxiety with “cautiousness” and “being realistic”. Neither of those are bad things but I was using them as reasons to not allow myself to be excited about year coming up. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty optimistic, glass half full type of person, so it’s not normal for me to be like that. In fact, one of my favourite verses in high school was 2nd Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-decipline.” I loved it so much that I had it written out and taped on my wall but I think that I’ve still somehow forgotten!

I’m not meant to fear the future. I’m not meant to live expecting things to go badly. God has created this incredible world and put us in it, to live and learn and explore. So this morning I opened the email, read over the syllabus, and will go to the class tomorrow anticipating that it will go well, that I’ll learn something interesting. Fear is normal; letting it consume your life is not. This fall, I’m trying to re-learn how to surrender my apprehension to God and let him replace it with anticipation. The future is full of possibilities. Yes, some of those possibilities include hardship or difficulty or heartbreak. But they are just that, possibilities. This fall, I’m choosing to look forward with anticipation, expecting not just goodness, but greatness. 

Today, I went adventuring with a friend. We rode bikes along the canal, lined with trees while the sun shined brightly. We sat and had coffee, we walked through our favourite park and we sat at a lookout over the city. It was fun and warm and carefree. It was a great day. There are many more great days to come: deep chats in my new dorm room, friendships with my residents, (even if sometimes I have to break up their beer pong games), adventures through the beautiful city I get to call home, learning about the world and the people God created and hopefully lots and lots of laughter. Yes, school is going to be a lot of work, and yes, I’m going to have to learn to manage my time and schedule to balance school, work, life and self-care. But that’s okay. Because those are all exciting things that God has blessed me with. 

Anticipation – to expect or look ahead with great pleasure. 

Life is exciting if you let it be. So to all my friends going to back to school tomorrow, or sometime this week. Let’s be anticipatory. Let’s expect GREAT things from this school year. Let’s have good attitudes and a willingness to learn. We are blessed for the opportunity to live and learn in Canada. Let’s act like it. Let’s act like we have sprits of power, love and self-dicipline.

That’s all I got for now. I’m surprised how nervous (damn, there’s that word again eh?) I am about hitting “publish” on this post. Vulnerability here folks. All the more reason to do it I guess. Hopefully someone out there in the big world of cyberspace gets something out of my silly realizations. God is always teaching me, even if I’m sometimes an inattentive student. So, good luck with September my friends. Let’s make it a great one

-Until next time, Sam ❤

P.s. Here are some pictures of my last couple weeks settling into my new job/home. They do make me more excited for all that is to come!!

 

Shawarma dajaaj min fadlik – Reflections on learning Arabic

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Homework

The first time I ordered shawarma in Arabic, I made sure to go by myself. I’d mentioned it before, as a joke, with a friend from class one night when we decided we desperately needed to go get some chickeny, garlic sausey deliousness. At the time, it had been just that, a joke, but as I sifted through my very limited Arabic vocabulary I realized I had all the words I needed to say “I want a small chicken shawarma with water please”. So I did it. I planned every syllable and still tripped over it.

The first time I spoke in Arabic spontaneously was when I was volunteering, teaching English to kids who had just arrived in Ottawa as refugees from Syria. I’d spent the last half hour trying to teach a table full of 6 year olds how to count and although they could write out the numbers and chant them out in order, I knew they weren’t making the connection with what “One, two, three, four…” actually meant. So I ran my finger down the page saying “Wahid, one. Ithnayn, two” etc. Their eyes lit up with understanding and they immediately starting babbling at me in Arabic. Obviously, I didn’t understand much but for the rest of the time I volunteered there, I would answer questions about my life in Arabic and get taught names of animals or foods by the kids.

I am one (school) year into learning this beautiful language and my life is already richer because of it. Often, when I get asked about my program I hesitate and wonder whether or not I should say my minor as well as my major. Partially because I don’t know if that’s something people do and partially because I know a lot of questions will follow haha.

The first question is usually why. There are so many reasons I chose to study Arabic but even I myself wasn’t sure if it was the right choice. I really considered taking Spanish again as my third language; I had studied and loved it in the past and knew that after 4 years I would be able to have a decent level of fluency. I had this nagging feeling though that if I did that I would regret it. I knew that I would always look back and have a what if moment, wondering if I had missed out on an adventure because of fear and the desire to take the easy way out. I knew Arabic would be difficult and unlike anything I’d ever done. I also knew that the eye-catching script intrigued me, that I wanted to unlock a new part of the world.

In high school I became really interested in language learning, not for the sake of the languages themselves but for the people that each one allowed me to meet. The thought that there were suddenly thousands of people I could connect with with each new language I learned filled me with excitement (and sadness that I can’t learn them all!) I struggled through French, forcing myself to get better, to be able to laugh and joke with my Swiss friends in their native language. I memorized Spanish verb conjugations in the hopes of one day being able to understand some of what my friend Bradley said when he teased me about my accent. I learned songs in American Sign Language, accumulating vocabulary quickly, amazed by Deaf culture. I recently met someone at church who is Deaf and because I knew a little sign, she invited me to have coffee with a group in Ottawa. I didn’t get a chance to go but I’m hoping to in the fall. How cool is it that learning even a few words in a different language creates an opportunity for connection with people that you otherwise may never have even learned the name of?

Learning the language has been difficult, I’m not going to lie. Even just learning the alphabet was hard. I remember that on the first day of class my professor told us that 9 of the letters had no French or English equivalent sounds. And real talk, I probably still sound ridiculous when I speak. But I try to savour the little successes, like handing in my first page long piece of writing, seeing on Memrise that I hit 500 words learned, or ordering shawarma. I’m enjoying it and its connecting me with new people and for me, that’s what it’s about. That’e enough for me.

I’ve also gotten to learn more about Arabic culture, because of conversations sparked when I got asked what I study. Once I mentioned it and the boy I was talking to, who was from Lebanon, sat and talked with me about his country and language, religion, politics and media portrayals for over two hours. How cool is that? Next year, as part of the requirements for my minor, I’ll be taking culture classes as well.

One year in, and swirls and dots that used to mean nothing to me are now sounds, words and names. No, I’m not exactly sure how they will tie into my future career, although yes, I do have some ideas. For now, I’m letting my professor laugh at me as I fall asleep in 8:30am lectures. I’m studying in the laundry room where no one bothers me while I say the same word over and over and over again. I’m writing the same few sentences again and again, still amazed that I can read this script. And yes, I’m eating a whole lot of shawarma dajaaj. Suffice to say, it’s an adventure.

-Unti next time, Sam ❤

Choosing Joy When Stress Is Looming

 

Spring? Is that you? I think it might be!

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The weather the last couple of days has been absolutely incredible here in Ottawa. On Sunday it was over 20 degrees (celsius) and the sun was shining all day. A lot of people are actually rocking sunburns around campus right now because they didn’t think they needed sunscreen in April haha. A grave error to make; Canadian weather can never be predicated!

At 9:30 this morning I wrote my history final which unfortunately for me was only my second out of six exams I have this semester. Lots of my friends at other schools (and even some here) are already done and home but I’m not even half-way yet! In light of that, I figured I’d give myself a break and write a little post about how I’ve been staying sane and joyful even with the stress of exams looming over me in case you’re still with me in the struggle (or if you’re in high school and haven’t started exams!)

One of my goals for this year  was to choose to be joyful in every situation. However as we all know, stress can be overwhelming and quickly consuming, making it really difficult to stay positive. This exam season, I’ve been making sure to prioritize my mental health and find ways not to let stress swallow me up. They are simple tips but sometimes a reminder is all we need to encourage us to do the little things in life!

Go for a walk – This is my number one way to destress or take a break. Being outside in the fresh air, especially with the beautiful weather we’ve been having, is the best way to clear your head and come back refreshed and ready to work. It’s active so it gets you up and away from your desk and it always reminds me how lucky I am to live in this beautiful world. Walking along the canal in the sunshine makes me feel joyful without even trying. Although, yesterday I may or may not have gotten lost and taken 2 and a half hours to find my way home…yes, my life is a gong show. But hey, it was an adventure at least!

Dance/sing/listen to music – Pretty much everyone can agree that listening to music can affect our moods. Whether that you need to be energized or calmed, picking good music is key to any study session. Even if you’re someone who can’t focus with music playing, I would still recommended throwing on some upbeat tunes when you take a break. The other day I had a mini dance party in my room to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, all by myself. Did I look ridiculous? Most definitely. Did it make me laugh? Yep. Just letting loose and doing something silly like dancing and singing to a pop song makes me feel more relaxed and able to go back and conquer that next chapter of economics or whatever I’m working on.

Change up the study space – For me, I’ve learned that studying in my room is a no-go. I will, invariably, fall asleep and take an accidental nap. Therefore, finding different places to study on (and off) campus has been really important for me this year. Try switching it up and finding somewhere new to work. This week I’ve been sitting outside with my books a lot but I also like the common room in my res, the library, other buildings on campus, coffee shops and even the laundry room (it’s quiet and no one cares if you study out loud). Having a study space where I feel productive empowers me to deal with stress.

img_20160414_152357.jpgTake care of yourself- eat and sleep. This is pretty self explanatory and gets drilled into our heads by every study tip source EVER. Eat well and please, please, please sleep the night before your exam. You will feel overwhelmed and stressed if you’re trying to study or write a test on 3 hours of sleep. Not to mention, choosing to be joyful is really hard when you don’t even have enough energy to get through the day.

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And sometimes you deserve a treat 😉

Have confidence –  Self-confidence? Sure. But even more than having confidence in myself, I find it essential to have confidence in God and His plans. Confidence that no matter how these exams go, there is a plan for my life and that my worth is not wrapped up in my grades or my accomplishments. With that in mind, I can have a settled assurance that everything will be okay and this freedom allows me to be unrestrained by stress. It enables me to put my full effort into everything I do, secure in the knowledge that my best is good enough. When my confidence is anchored in God, it can’t be shaken by something as simple as words on a page. The best part: when you’re confident, you’re more productive because you know that you are capable of producing the results you want. Let’s be real, if you put the time into studying, you will do fine; the more confident you are, the better you’ll be able to perform under the pressure of exams. Believing that God’s got your back is the best way to make full use of your talents and abilities.

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Source 

Let it goooooo. -The most stress is that which we put on ourselves. A healthy amount of pressure is fine and can even be helpful; I know I work best when the pressure it on. There comes a point however where it stops being healthy and we start beating ourselves up. You can do your best and nothing more; be kind to yourself. Prepare for your exams, go in and write them and then let it go. Rehashing things in your head after the fact doesn’t help anything so try to just live in the moment and be glad that they are over. You did it!

 

Whether you’re one exam in or have just one exam left, I believe that you can survive the end of the semester. School is not the end of the world, nor is the stress worth it. So stay joyful and do the best that you can; it’s all anyone can ask!

Good luck, and remember…summer is coming! I can feel it in the air 🙂

-Until next time, Sam

5 Things 1st Year Taught Me

Wow it’s been a while! It’s crazy how fast time goes when you’re writing papers 😉

Today I went to my last class of my first year. Sorry what?! That’s right, there are just 6 exams and 14 days between me and the end of my first year. Unbelievable! Honestly, I know that’s a pretty cliché topic to write about but I definitely learnt some things from first year that I figured I share with you guys in just a quick post (before I drown in exams).

Don’t go to class if you aren’t going to engage

In my opinion, there are three types of students when it comes to class attendance. The ones who don’t go at all, the ones who go and play on their phones/computer and chat with friends, and the ones who go and actually pay attention to what the prof is saying. To be straight up here, I have been all three of these students at some point in the year. But something I’ve learned is that I would rather skip class than go and fool around. Why waste my time sitting in a lecture hall flipping through Facebook? I’m not learning anything and if that’s the case, I’d rather be sleeping. Just being in the room doesn’t mean you’re learning. If you’re taking the time out of your day to show up (and you should be), commit to it fully. Listen, process and absorb what the prof is lecturing on. Take notes, ask questions if need be and take advantage of the education you’re paying thousands of dollars for.

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Economics is soon not my strong suit and yet, here I am.

It’s easy to get involved if you’re willing to step out of your “comfort zone”

I mentioned in another post that I had sent out a ton of emails looking for a volunteer placement. Not being involved first semester was literally painful because I spent all of high school juggling all kinds of clubs and commitments and I love being busy. But this is the thing. There are so many opportunities in university if you’re willing to try new things. I’m actually typing this while I’m on shift waiting for a call to come in at Foot Patrol, the campus accompaniment service I volunteer with. I’ve spent the last couple months teaching English to Syrian refugee kids and it’s consistently been the highlight of my week. I was a (sporadic) member of a Bible study, the floor rep for my floor in residence, a player on a dodgeball team and when I had time I practiced with my school’s competitive lifeguard team. Are any of those activities I did in high school? Aside from Bible study, nope. But once I started putting myself out there, opportunities popped up everywhere I looked. Getting involved has made my first year richer; I’ve gotten to meet people in all years and all programs, having conversations with all kinds of unique people.

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A photo display I put together for our floor’s end of the year party. So many great memories!

Be spontaneous

Some of my best memories of this year have come from someone saying “Hey does anyone want to…” and then just going and doing whatever it is. Go for a walk at midnight with your friends. Show up to an event you know nothing about and participate in it. Visit a museum. Go into the little coffee shops and the strange little purple thrift shops. Buy a fish, build a fort, sleep in a tipi, have a snowball fight, sit and talk to a stranger. I don’t know what it is it but do it! Studying is important but sometimes it can wait; learn to say yes to the random, crazy, (safe), adventures that pop up.

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I loved getting to explore my new city this year

Take a risk. 

This is similar to the last point but this is a more serious note. Do the things you don’t think you can do. Being in immersion and having come from Core French is super intimidating! The amount of times I’ve hesitated to speak French this year is seriously ridiculous. And yet, when I went to my first bilingual interview, not only did I get the job but the French portion was actually my strongest part! There were so many things I turned down this year because “I’m not bilingual” or “My French isn’t good enough” and I’ll never know how many friendships and experiences I missed out on because of it. French may mean anything to you but we all make excuses for why we refuse to try something. So go for it, stop making excuses and try things you don’t know if you can do. If you succeed you’ll prove yourself wrong, and if you fail you’ll gain experience that will help you succeed the next time. You have NOTHING to lose. 

 

 

Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, you can do it.

Let’s be real. University is freaking hard. It is so not a walk in the park. At least, it hasn’t been for me. The sheer volume of work I had looming over my head 24/7 was overwhelming to say the least. But I did it . Not only have I survived but I’ve actually thrived in my new academic environment. I took classes in French for the first time, I got a GPA that I had convinced myself was impossible, I declared a minor, started learning a new language, wrote countless papers, aced tests and wrote others that did not go so well. I pulled all nighters and cried once or twice (or a lot). I had profs that I respected and looked up to, profs that were totally insane and profs that told me I had impressed them.

A couple of times, especially in first semester, I remember sitting at my desk and wondering how on earth it was humanly possible to get a university degree. Like how do people do this for 4+ years??? And yet here I am, very nearly having survived the year. It’s possible. Sometimes it’s hard. Other times I find myself furiously researching for a paper that I can’t wait to write because I am so passionate about the topic. You CAN do it. Just remember why you’re in the program you are in. Sometimes all you need to get through a week of hellish assignments is to remind yourself why you’re doing it, whether it be because you are fascinated by the intricacy and complexity of biology or because you want to work for the United Nations. Studying with a purpose makes it so much easier to get through.

I also have been really liking this Bible verse lately to give myself study motivation for exams. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11

Obviously, school is hard work if you want to do well. But this verse reminds me and gives me hope that it will pay off and produce a harvest. University is meant to test you, train you and prepare you for the future. Although discipline is hard, it is the only way to see real progress. I learned this year that sometimes, I really do just have to sit down and plough through the stuff, whether I want to or not. The future pay off and reward will be greater than the temporary fun of procrastination.

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BONUS: Enjoy every minute of 1st year because it WILL be over before you know it

I’m sure you’ve noticed a recurring theme throughout all five of these points because if there is one thing I learned in first year it is to live in the moment, as cheesy as it sounds. Take advantage of all the time and opportunities you are given because this is life. Don’t wait to live it. I got so sick of listening to people complain about the dining hall or living in res or how they just want to move on to med school/law school/the rest of their lives. In high school you couldn’t wait to be here and now you can’t wait to leave? There are so many things to explore! We have to enjoy this time and glean all we can from it.

This year I spent 8 months learning. Not just in class, but in life and now, in just two short weeks, I’ll be moving out of my cosy little dorm room and headed off to a jam packed summer full of adventure. Crazy.

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My little nest

-Until next time, Sam ❤

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P.S. If you need some productive procrastination, check out this TedTalk on the subject, it’s pretty funny and also scarily accurate haha #thedarkplayground

 

Learning to be Still

 

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Study central

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still – Exodus 14:14

Even though I have only been back at school for a week and a half, it already feels like months have gone by. Between finding classes, switching courses, buying textbooks and catching up with friends, it seems as though Christmas break never even happened.

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Very busy “TO DO” list this week

Last semester, I ended up being really, really stressed out, particularly in October when I had the bulk of my midterms and papers due. Although I don’t regret my first semester of university, as I learned a lot, this semester I’m making a concerted effort to be more organized, prioritize what’s important to me and make school not so much a struggle but a season on my life to enjoy to the fullest. I made myself a list of 16 goals (I’m ambitious okay) that I’ve actually been looking over at the end of each day and trying to ask myself if I made most of them happen that day.

And it’s incredible how much of a difference some of those things have made even in just the few short weeks I’ve been working on them. I’m not going to lie, getting up at 7am every day is not my favourite thing in the world and my floormates are not super impressed by my insistence on my “bedtime” of 11pm. But SERIOUSLY my days feel like actual, full, productive days! My friend Tati wrote a great post this week about becoming a morning person and  it’s crazy how much of a difference it makes. And the libraries are so quiet in the morning, having a cup of tea and ploughing through a couple of chapters of econ or history can be accomplished before most people are even out of bed.

But in the last week or so, I’ve been realizing something else that is important: knowing when to be still. Between classes, readings, working out, volunteering, clubs, friends, errands etc., I sometimes have to take a minute to be still, and just breathe. I talked about this actually last semester as well but clearly didn’t learn my lesson.

Which brings me to the point of this point. Every year, I choose a word to focus on, kind of a theme for my year. Last years word was courageous . This year, nothing was really coming to me and I kind of had decided to just go with “Joy” since one of my goals was to “choose joy”.

But then I went away to Wintercon, a weekend retreat with my school’s Christian fellowship. It was a time to get to know each other and learn about the “good news” of the gospel. It was definitely an amazing experience. Upstairs they had this prayer room which was absolutely beautiful and peaceful.

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p.c. Steve Kim @ stevekinsung.wordpress.com

All weekend however, I had a song stuck in my head that I used to sing with my choir in high school. The lyrics go:

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with You above the storm

Father you are King over the flood

I will be still and know you are God

The word still really stood out to me, in two senses. One, for me to be still, in the busyness of life, to take time and just be in God’s presence. And secondly, still as a steadfastness, a continuation, an “even now”, an always. Since being in school I sometimes find myself just trying to get through it so I can move on with my life, forgetting why I’m here. But this weekend I was really reminded that God still has  plans for me, that the passions and promises he has given me are still remembered and that he is still with me everyday. In particular I really felt affirmed and renewed passion about my call and love for Nepal which I’ve written about here and here. My friend Dayna is actually there right now (as was my friend Tori about a month ago) and hearing their stories and seeing their pictures just makes me so much more excited for when the day comes that I finally get to go and explore this place I feel inexplicably drawn to. These are some of Dayna’s pictures, so of course photo credit goes to her!

So that’s my word for the year. Still. It will be interesting to learn how God can bring about incredible adventures for me, even when I am patiently standing still.

Sorry if this hasn’t been a super interesting post for you guys to read! This one has been (and let’s be real, several of my recent posts are as well) a lot of personal reflection and letting my thoughts spill out onto my blog…not to fear! I’m trying to come up with some fresh and interesting content soon so stay tuned!

Until then, I hope you’re having a lovely day. Pro tip: studying with a facemask and a cp of tea is pretty not bad.

-Sam

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Not a great picture but I got glasses for the first time this week. What do you think?

15 things I learned in 2015

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2015 is winding down and it’s certainly been one of the biggest years of my life so far. I graduated high school, spent another amazing summer working on Beausoleil Island, moved to a new city and started university. Suffice to say, I learned some things over the last 12 months. Here’s 15 of them!

1. Things change. Things will always change. Life evolves and you have to learn to be content in every season and every opportunity you get given, even if that means closing the door on a good time in life.

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2. I am more capable than I knew. If you ever want to push the limits of your capabilities, go be a camp counsellor for a summer. You will learn more about problem solving, relationships and thinking on your feet than ever before. From canoe trips gone wrong and first aid situations that went right to defusing cabin conflict and telling bed time stories, working at camp this summer taught me that I am capable of more than I ever would have thought.

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3. Grades matter, but not as much as effort. In university I had to learn pretty quickly that good grades weren’t going to come as easily as they did in high school. But I also realized that knowing I had put everything I had into my work made me prouder than getting an A. Effort and work ethic mean a lot more than a number.IMG_20151114_163238

4. There are likeminded people everywhere. I promise. You might think you won’t find anyone who shares your sense of humour or your love of Doctor Who but I swear, if you’re willing to be social, you will find people to talk to.

5. T.V. is a waste of free time. Go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, have a nap, read a book, workout, bake cookies, draw, whatever. The less free time I had, the less tolerance I had for watching T.V. I realized that there were so many things I’d rather be doing than staring mindlessly at a screen. (Note: movie nights are always an exception…especially Disney movie nights)

6. University is hard. I swear, it feels like no one ever told me that before I went. It was all about how fun it is, how exciting it is, a new adventure etc. But holy heck, the workload is cray! It definitely takes getting used to and really good time management skills. Get a calendar. Use it. Don’t write a paper at 5am the day it is due.

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7. University is also fun. Despite the papers, midterms and long nights in the library, university IS an adventure. Living in residence and having friends around all the time is a blast. Exploring a new city is exciting. Freedom is awesome. And learning is actually amazingly interesting when you’re passionate about the subject.

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8. You can learn a lot from sucking at things. I’m not a fan of being bad at things. It stresses me out. For example, I hating driving at first because I sucked but, unfortunately, that is how you learn. The worse you are, the more room there is for improvement… but only if you’re willing to stick it out. This year I did a lot of things I wasn’t so great at; economics, driving, Arabic, using public transit, dodgeball etc. Guess what? It was hard, an I got better.

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First place in Res Dodgeball…and I swear, I actually helped.

9. Family is more important than I’d realized. It wasn’t until I moved away that I truly appreciated my parents. I missed my sister more than I expected and seeing everyone at Christmas was amazing. Although, they will also drive you nuts within a week of being home, guaranteed.

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Reunited with my not-so-little sister

10. Advil is expensive. So is toothpaste. And cereal. And shampoo. And socks. And deodorant. I never really grasped the value of money until this year when I had to buy things that had always just been there. Life costs money!!!

11. Snail mail is literally one of my greatest pleasures in life. I don’t care if that is a stupid life lesson, I learned this year just how much it means to me when someone takes the time to write me a letter. It’s a fun surprise when you get it, it means and lot and it is seriously just so FUN! Why did we ever stop sending mail?

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Camp friends make good pen pals

12. Nature gives me energy and revives my soul. Going from spending the entire summer outside and on a national park to living downtown in the capital city was quite an…adjustment. I’ve always loved the outdoors but this year I realized how much trees and lakes and stars make me feel alive haha. Not to mention, nothing beats long talks under the stars. This summer I lay on a dock and watched a meteor shower and talked about life until 3 am. Those are the kind of moments you don’t forget. In Ottawa, walking by the canal and seeking out parks quickly became a priority.

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13. Taking time to destress and do things you love is important. Little things that you enjoy are important for mental wellbeing and avoiding burnout. I like knitting, writing, catching up with friends, going for a walk or swimming lengths when I need to clear my head. Even when I’m crazy busy, making time to destress and do Sam things is important.

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14. Community is vital. For the first time in my life this year, I found myself in a place where I didn’t know a soul. I thrive off of relationships with others. In Barrie, I had an amazing group of friends, an amazing church and two families that loved me. Then I spent the summer at camp living with a whole bunch of my favourite humans . Suddenly I was in Ottawa, not knowing anyone. Thankfully, LeBlanc is the best (lebest) residence in the entire world and I quickly found a close community in the 3rd floor. Shoutout, heyyyy guys! I learned this year how valuable community is. Having people you can laugh with, trust and be comfortable around is what makes life fun.

15. Trust God. So many changes this year, it’s been kind of a whirlwind. There have defiantly been times when I questioned if I made the right choices. Thankfully, I’ve had the faith to continually put my decisions in God’s hands because I’ve learned that when I do, things always turn out better than I could have imagined. My God is faithful, and I am blessed beyond measure. When I don’t know what to do, trusting God is the answer to every problem because with Him, I don’t fear the future.

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Well, that’s definitely not everything but it’s what I can think of at the moment. It’s been a good year, definitely one that will be looked back upon as a turning point and a learning curve.

2016, I look forward to welcoming you in. I’m ready to give this next year my best shot and, I’m sure, rack up some more ridiculous stories.

Bring it on, New Years.

-Sam

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Sam’s Experiment with Sleep Deprivation

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It’s currently 3:20am on a Friday morning, and I’m supposed to be writing an essay. Clearly, I’m not.

To be fair, I’ve been here since 8pm, mind mapping, making lists of points and reading books for research, trying desperately to make my thoughts somehow synthesis into a cohesive piece of writing for my essay writing class; I’ve made progress but it’s slow going.wpid-20151106_033938.jpg

Why exactly am I up at this hour, blogging instead of curling up in my bed? Tonight is the “Long Night Against Procrastination” (LNAP) event hosted by my university. LNAP is an event held at universities all over that encourages students to buckle down and get things done, with Academic Advisors and Writing Assistants to help along the way. Personally, I’m not a huge fan or believer in “pulling all nighters”. Honestly, I don’t think they are an effective way to study or get work done because your brain just doesn’t operate at it’s full potential when you’re sleep deprived. Unfortunately for me, I’m a sucker for interesting events and programming so the idea of a bunch of students coming together and staying up all night, writing papers, studying together, and eating free food was too much to resist. Not to mention they have cool stuff going on every hour to give ourself breaks. We just came back from a walk around campus and in the next few hours there is mediation, colouring and even therapy dogs coming to visit
before we have breakfast and prepare to face the real day.

I wasn’t planning to stay all night. I really wasn’t. I have class at 8:30 tomorrow and while my paper does need to get done asap, I have the weekend to work on it. But then I got asked to participate in a study for Human Kinetics class about our abilities when we are tired. A few guys had set up a station a couple feet behind me and I was listening to them on and off all night do some kind of interview or test with various people. They finally approached me but I had to commit to staying until at least 7am to be retested. After I agreed, I was shown a board covered in double digit numbers and the another board with completely random pictures. I had a minute each to memorize and then try to recall as many of them as possible. I actually did really well and beat the record for most numbers memorized. The trick will be doing well again in a few hours!

I am seriously feeling the exhaustion already. I can barely read let alone come up with critical thinking or academic writing. I figured I would take a break from reading about political correctness and write a bit about my experience with a real university all nighter. At this point, my commitment to their project (and my own stubbornness) is the only thing keeping me from crawling back to LeBlanc and going to sleep. Worship music, coffee and more writing it is! And you know what, I think I’ll post this right now so I can look back at it when I’m more rested and see if it’s below my usual quality haha. Please pray for productivity and my sanity since clearly I am crazy! I’ll keep ya posted

Until next time,

  • Sam 🙂

A simple pause

Sometimes you need to just be.

The last few weeks have been a blur of rushing around and a flood of names, faces, places, instructions and information. Even my last blog post was written in one shot and published immediately. The rhythm of university life caught me up in it’s current before I knew what had happened. And you know what? I love it. I love being busy. I love getting to know people and exploring and learning.

But sometimes, it all gets to be a bit overwhelming. Today for the first time I felt a little buried in this new experience. I looked around and felt odd knowing that no one here really knows me. They’ve met me and I’m sure they have a general idea of who I am and what I’m like but they don’t really know me, my thoughts, my soul. Maybe that’s a little dramatic but I miss having people around who just get me. Victoria, if you’re reading this, I miss our heart to hearts and you just knowing what I mean when I sigh and wave my hands around.

I think all this is amplified by the fact that I’m sick right now and having to take care of yourself kind of sucks to be honest. I miss my mom making me soup and rubbing my back when I’m not feeling well. I guess that’s part of growing up though right?

Today, I just needed to be Sam. Completely me. Not a university student, or a floormate, or a new friend or anyone. Just me. So I went for a walk and when I got back to my dorm, I put in my headphones and listened to some worship music. This one song came on. To be honest, I can’t remember what it’s called anymore. The lyrics go something like:

Holy Spirit you are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory God is what our hearts long for

These words hit me so hard today, as I was sitting in my little room at the end of the hall. Even though it’s not what the song was talking about, I felt God speaking so clearly to me…as soon as I was willing to listen.

The One who knows my soul and my being better than any human ever will, is with me. My God knows “just Sam” better than even I do. I was so overcome with peace and a sense of the Holy Spirit as I sat and there and remembered that I am not, nor have I ever been and nor will I ever be, alone. That, my friends, is the most incredible feeling in the world.  Even when I am in a strange place, with no one I know, I am known. I am known by a God who cares about my thoughts, my dreams and my passions. My God knows that I need community and I can have full confidence that He will provide opportunities for new relationships and places that I’ll feel comfortable in. Barrie, Mapleview, Kitchi…Ottawa will eventually make the list of places I call “home”.

Today, for me, that pause in my day to just be alone with God for a few minutes made me feel so refreshed, calm and ready to reassess what I had to get done, one step at a time. It helped me get my thoughts back in line rather than let myself get caught in a rut of feeling out of place.

Life is busy. Life as a student in a new city is even more so. Today I am grateful that I’ve been blessed with this experience and even more grateful that I have a God who’s got my back. Essays and readings ain’t got nothing on me!

-Until next time, Sam

P.s. How is life going for you? I hope it’s good.

My little nest
My little nest

101 Week – I survived!

So if you weren’t already aware, I MOVED!

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10 days ago (was it that few days??) I packed up all my things in a van my mom rented, said a heartfelt goodbye to my friends and puppies and drove 5 hours north-east to the capital of Canada, Ottawa! I’m going to school for International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa and after a week and a bit, I can say that there is nowhere else I would rather be. You know that feeling you get when you have just complete peace with knowing that you’re in the right place at the right time? I was in my orientation for my program on my third day, listening to the President of the School of Development speak and I was just so overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation and this strong sense of being exactly where I’m meant to be this year.

So far, I have had an easy peasy transition to university. I’ve made lots of friends right off the bat, my dorm is small but cozy. I love my floor. Most people seem to be very social and we all hang out and study together almost every night. There are a couple of other first years in my program living on my floor so the three of us have ben hanging out a lot, buying books together, studying etc which is cool to have that support system built right into where I live. There are also quite a lot of international students from the US, Morocco, Nigeria, France etc. I love getting to learn about other cultures!

And campus is so pretty! I love the architecture and the vines and ivy growing on the buildings. One of my favourite parts is that the school is really integrated with the city around us so I can basically walk off of campus and right into downtown, instantly having access to museums and restaurants and I can practically see Parliament from where I live! Also, my res is the only one connected to the “skywalks” or “tunnels” that connect various buildings on campus so we don’t even have to go outside to access the dining hall or library which is kind of cool. Speaking of the dining hall, it has a waffle maker, a chocolate milk dispenser and a latte machine, so it’s basically my favourite place to go. The salad bar is cool too, don’t worry guys!!

Frosh week has come and gone, so now it’s time for the real work to begin. 101 week was fun, to an extent. It definitely introduced me to a lot of people. My program has their own student federation which means we got our own frosh week and I met a ton of people in my specific program and therefore in my classes so that was great. My favourite activities were probably a fundraiser we did called Shineday doing silly things in downtown to raise money for cystic fibrous, a camping night, exploring the city and jut getting to talk to other first years and the guides. A lot of the other events were not really my cup of tea, like parties and stuff. I’m glad I did it though, it was good experience.

Turns out, my high school teachers were not exaggerating about how much reading there is in uni! I feel like all I do is read  pages and pages and pages of my textbooks. And those things are not cheap, let me tell you! I’ve never been so grateful for education than I am now when every second I’m here costs me money! So far, I’m very excited about the classes I’m taking. It’s such a breathe of fresh air to feel passionate about the things I’m learning, to want to engage with the material and to have real opinions about the content. High school was basically pretty cookie cutter but now I’m in a program tailored to my interests and I already love it so much. The french immersion, honestly, it turning out to be easier than I thought it would be. I had my first “cour d’anthropologie” today and I understood pretty close to everything the prof was saying! I think a big part of that was that I had done the reading in advance (took 5 billion years) so I had the vocal already but still, it definitely relieved some of the fears I had. And today just kept being a good day to learn because my other class was Arabic! After the first day, I can admit. This is not going to be easy. But, I don’t need easy. I just need possible. That’s a Bethany Hamilton quote I believe! Anyway, ana ismii Sam, please pray for me in that classe!

The hardest thing about this week was Sunday night. In the morning I went to a church near the school with some people from res and it was pretty similar to what I’m used to at my home church. But even though I know my God is the same anywhere I go, it sucks not being with my church family. Like seriously. It’s weird being surrounded by people but having not one of them actually know me, or to be honest, care about me. Not yet anyways. That night I sat in my room and wished I was in Barrie, at Mapleview, worshipping with the Young Life. They say you take things for granted until they are gone and I am seriously missing the community I had back home. I’m praying to find a place here in Ottawa where I can connect and find a way to be involved. And I know, these things take time. I see a few friendships here with the potential to bloom into long lasting ones, and I’m sure I’ll meet more as time goes on. I’m going to try more churches too, and find one that fits! Just one thing I’ve noticed about being here that makes me miss home. Shout out to all my TSL people, love and miss you guys always!

That’s all for now, it’s getting late and I have class tomorrow. Have any of you started school the las couple of weeks? How has it gone? What are the best and worst things thus far? Let me know!

  • Until next time, Sam

First dorm room selfie hahaha

First dorm room selfie hahaha