An Imperfect Journey towards Faith

because he listsn

I sat in church, amidst a sea of faces, some who knew me well, others who wouldn’t be able to pick me out in a lineup. I loved my church, I still do, though I’ve moved on. I loved the people, the leadership, the diversity, the energy. I love the constant run towards God, even if not always close to perfect. Our goal was finding God and helping others find what we already knew.

Except that I didn’t know what I believed any longer. Circumstances had hit me hard and I was dealing with rejection from a number of sources very close to me. Cloaked in confusion I couldn’t see beyond myself. I wore pain like rose covered glasses.

I wish that I could say it was the first time something like this happened. Only 4 years earlier I sat in the Royal Albert Hall, longing for answers. Screaming out to God, giving Him ultimatums.

As the service ended, like the weeks before and for weeks following, when given the chance, I, along with the countless others loudly and boldly prayed what we call the “Salvation prayer”. I didn’t even believe it at first, I didn’t know if I wanted to keep going on this path. I cried out, speaking those words, longing for a tangible feeling.

I prayed myself into belief again.

And like back into 2008, God showed up.

There were no grand overtures, miraculous signs or wonders. As I lay down my humanity, God took over.

It took my unbelief, my desire for answers to connect again.

And it continues today.

It’s super awesome being a believer in Christ. Until you wake up. Literally, each night you fall asleep and then you wake up and you’re just like anyone else in the entire world.

Until you call out.

Again and again.

God is like a gentleman caller, eagerly awaiting his beloved to allow Him into her presence. Stood across the room, he steals glances at her, longing to bring her close, but polite enough to understand that forced affection grows weary, but true love, tried, tested and endured will stand the test of time.

 
“The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him[a] from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

C. S. Lewis so eloquently stated: “Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.”

He is always there, but until we call to Him, seek Him, He is simply there loving us.

I don’t think my journey is over. I still have days where I wonder and question though those have changed all those years ago.

Instead of wondering if I believe, instead of questioning God, I ask myself why I question His love, what I am doing that makes me feel further away or left in silence. Instead of running away, I run towards.

Towards His Love.

Towards His Grace.

Towards His promises.

When Calling Surpasses Comfort

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As of Wednesday, November 30th I will no longer have a permanent residence (for now).

This is the girl who has planned every step of her life as long as she can remember. It may not seem like it to some, but my steps are generally well thought out, prayerfully considered and concrete. While most people move to a new country and then look for housing, I get an apartment even before I am there. So, when the opportunity for change seemed to appear I was headed in one direction, quickly! However, that took a turn and now things are changing and I am headed back to North America…not my plan.

Planning is in my blood. It is what balances my creative, erratic and romantic side. I will always remember a former boss telling me “Michelle, sometimes you let the artist overtake the entrepreneur.” Although he didn’t say it quite as eloquently, or even as nicely, I understood this to be what he meant. My logical brain never leads me too far where my creative nature wants to fling me.

However, as I sit in a cafe in Söder, I am taking time away from my client to write this. I am not going to tell you what to do or how to live your life. I am only going to share how God has worked on my heart and allowed me to be taken on what I am so confidently branding #mybiggrandadventure.

It started years ago already. Admittedly Sweden was never in my plans. I thought I would set up residence in London and there I would stay. Of course, knowing the playful relationship I have with God anytime I say “never or always” my life is sideswiped. So, in 2012 I packed my life up, left the first place I really felt completely me and moved to the land of simple beauty. Sweden has been amazing and very difficult at once. I understand now the journey God has taken me on and I am sure I will talk more about that in subsequent blogs and articles. For now I only want to focus on how He has taught me of his grace, mercy and undying love for me (and for you). How He has taken my broken heart, mended it, only to break it over and over again, only this time for His purposes. How, through the blessings and triumphs, low moments and pain, He has, like a potter, sculpted me. Oh boy, I am so far from perfect and my journey nowhere close to finished, but I am so thankful for His fatherly love and gentle discipline.

The foundation laid for me in London was strong and while I didn’t always understand then what He was teaching me through greater leadership, friendship and serving, those experiences have now allowed me to take the next step. And so, with that I am learning…

  1. The freedom of resting in His plans. When I have, in the past, tried to make things work for myself I have only landed in what can be said is a mess. It may not always be a big mess, but it definitely wasn’t where I was intended. This time, as I step out, leaving my home and starting anew, although I am filled with sadness for all the good I am leaving behind, I can only be excited for what is to come. For, as many have said, the safest place to be is in the will of God. No longer do I worry about how anything will plan out because, dang what He has already shown me is far greater than I could have ever planned.
  2. That it’s okay to be sad and happy all at once. I have the greatest mix of emotions right now. Literally holding back tears as I write this. I am so utterly, insanely thankful for the people I have in my life. I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am for my life up until now and the people are a huge part of it. I can only be excited about those I am about to meet and what God will do with the friendships we build. How freaking exciting is that!!? And knowing that distance, as I have more than once stated, is only a physical thing. As I experienced this week back in LDN, those who God places in your heart will never go away. It doesn’t matter really if we are next door or across the world, love really never dies. So, while I am sad I am leaving the day to day lives of some, while others who were only a quick plane ride away are (for now) separated by an ocean, there are many more new hugs to be had, coffees to drink and plans to conquer.
  3. That grief is a very real thing and does not come only with losing someone. Only about 8 weeks ago I was walking to a team night with my friend Marie when something struck me. I turned to her and said “I don’t know if living in Europe is still a God thing or if it has turned into a me-thing.” You guys, let’s be honest. I am so much more European than North American. I cried yesterday, panic attack, when I had to talk about mobile phone plans across the Atlantic. Darn, they’re not even called mobiles there. I have such a strong heart for what God is doing over here in Europe and that has not changed. So, in the midst of transporting myself across the world, all that I had felt called to, is changing and I am grieving that. I haven’t lost that heart for Europe, it’s simply a new season and one that I know is of God. (side note: I know this because of many prayerful conversations, God moments and just the simplicity of how this is all working out).  And so, I have to grieve what has been, for a new season of what will be. I also have to grieve my safety net. As I said, I am used to having my ducks in a row (at least when it comes to structure). I am going to a lot of unknowns and that is okay. But, for those of you who haven’t lived closely to me over the last 12 years, this is HUGE FOR ME and SO SCARY. I may seem like I flint and fly all over, but in fact calculated risk is my thing. So, here I am learning to grieve really my old self and truly die to what God has in store.
  4. And finally, not everyone is going to understand and that is okay. Truth be told I am pretty confident some people, many people will be a bit confused as I move into this next season. It’s okay. I am too. But, that’s okay because I don’t always understand your choices, their choices. What I do know is that although in the past I really cared about what others thought of my choices, that has since changed. I understand now that if you care that much about my choices and are in a close relationship with me, you can just ask. I am happy to talk about my reasoning and why I am doing something, but if someone is not going to ask, then I let them assume all they want. It’s not worth worrying about me if you don’t care to ask. Please know that this is the most freeing revelation you can have, if, like me, you tend to be a bit of a people pleaser. The only person I am accountable to, other than myself, and more importantly is God. He called us to love Him and to love others. So, in all I do, I prayerfully consider my actions in light of that. Is this God and will it harm or hurt others? Of course I assume that most of the time if it’s God then it won’t harm others!

So…as I step into this next (super exciting and scary season) I am only seeking the steps God has for me. I am moving and taking decisions in rest, not in striving. Although it is not always comfortable (thank you to my mom and my circle of trust for putting up with a lot of crying), it is what I feel is my next step. I am grateful for you all who read my blog and follow along with me on this journey we call life.

In less somber  news I have a few exciting projects coming up so please follow me on Snapchat: meegsx, on Insta: michelletiffanycandice for updates. I will also have my Swedish number on whatsapp and a new number otherwise. You can message me anywhere for that 🙂

Until then, I hope that my revelations will help you a bit.

with love (and until California)

Michelle

Ready or Not, here I go…

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photo: ivanka.trump.com

“When you talk about going back to Toronto, you light up, and that you can’t fake”

Dang. You have to appreciate honesty eh?

And the thing is, that even though I don’t have every step planned out, I am genuinely excited.

Like the quote says, most of the time I am not quite ready, but I go anyway. If I was always waiting until I am ready I would never move…

And because of that I took a moment to meditate on what I am excited about in this move.

I am looking forward to discovering a new city. I’ve never actually lived there and learning about the places that will make me feel at home; the cafes, the bookshops, the running paths, my favorite cinema…what will my Saturdays look like?

I can’t wait to meet “my people”. I know that I have an existing community in the city and I have the most incredible community spread all over the world. It can be scary moving to a new place when I have been so blessed with truly the most incredible “family “all over who have challenged me, encouraged me for so long. So meeting my new people is one I look forward to. What will they do? How will we meet?

Experiencing re-connection. I have had the privilege of meeting many people who have touched my life. Some for a few years, others more than a decade. Living near so many that were an important part of my uni years is actually really cool. Though we have grown up and went our ways I look forward to having time to reconnect.

The adventures of road trips! This may be a silly one, but I love driving and discovering new cities. I already have plans for Maine and Rhode Island and maybe even the entire East Coast of Canada.

But even though I am excited and looking forward to a lot, the honest truth is that I have never been so sad and so excited all at once. Sad because I am leaving the known, the familiar and in every season there remains an aspect of the unknown.

Will I fit in? Will my time away have changed me too much? Will the community I long for be there?

The thing is, even 12 years ago, prior to moving to London I asked myself the same questions and I have had the most incredible life so far. God provided me with more than I ever expected…so it got me thinking about choices.

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via GIPHY

We were created with free will. We choose to love God. We make decisions daily about our life, big and small.

But…

We were also created to be in relationship with Christ.

So…

I believe when we are in relationship with Christ and truly spending time in conversation, in His word, then our choices will be in line with His best for us.

And so logically, all the what if’s and maybe’s aren’t so scary.

I always go back to the verse that I read the day I made the decision to move to London.

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up [my entire life, everything I do];
You understand my thought from afar.

You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And You are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Even before there is a word on my tongue [still unspoken],
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
 
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And [You have] placed Your hand upon me.

Such [infinite] knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high [above me], I cannot reach it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will take hold of me.

He has never failed me. He has always brought me from Strength to Strength. So, I step out, not quite ready, a bit trepidatious, excited…

What will the next season look like!?

And The Road Leads…Home

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I remember getting on the plane, August 21 2005. I was 22.

It wasn’t the first time I had made a major life decision to separate myself from those closest to me and move.

I was barely 18 when I moved from Vancouver, BC to St. Catharines, ON to go to university. Who knew that meeting a girl called Sarah in my first year would somehow lead me to moving abroad just four years later.

This time the catalyst is different.

This time it’s about a call.

Next month, I’m packing up, leaving Sweden, leaving Europe and heading to California.

Now, as far as I know, California is a stop, SELAH, a break.

I’m going home.

home. 

What a loaded word.

When I moved to university, I was 18 and I was leaving the people I love.

Now, as I take a huge step of faith, again I am leaving those I love. But the most beautiful, terrible part is that now, my heart is across the world.

My heart, ripped, torn, stretched and spread from Australia to California, from NYC to Amsterdam, from Stockholm to Moscow.

And now, I go home.

I recently heard a quote that said “home is wherever they want you to stay longer”…so by that definition I think I have home in a few places and for that I am thankful.

so…

I was back in Toronto in September for a short visit. Being in a period of transition I, for the first time, saw the city in a new way, meanwhile striving to get somewhere else. I even hid my feelings until I blurted it out in the car “Do I just want to come home because I have nothing yet to look forward to?”
It was a burden lifted.

Briefly.

Because then, my friend, the journey has been hard. I have spent weeks on end praying, journalling, crying, sitting silently, asking what I should do next.

And all I heard was go.

So, I am.

First stop Cali, next stop Toronto.

Do I have a new job? No. Do I have a plan? Not really.

And for the first time it’s okay because in this season, this is obedience and it’s the one of the most freeing, liberating, peaceful step I have taken.

And it’s exciting.

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life],
But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.

Proverbs 16:9

So, I take one step. One day at a time. And keep only HIM in sight. For He is the author of my life. And in Him I trust.

 

What I learned about love from a FaceTime Call

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The last two weeks are so have been filled with many a FaceTime or Skype call with friends from all across the world. When I moved abroad twelve years ago these were options that did not exist. I can’t even imagine what it was like in the 50s when my grandmother left Germany for Canada.
As I plan my steps ahead and follow the whisper that God has put on my heart, these calls have become ever increasingly important to me. Much like technology such as Facebook, Whatsapp, FaceTime, Instagram have done, the ability to connect as my feet touch the earth of a hundred different cities means more and more each day.
As I spoke to “meine schwester” in Germany, watching her be a mom, interacting with her gorgeous son, my heart was filled with joy that I cannot comprehend.
As I look to take new steps these moments are so important and have shown me two very important lessons.

 

1. People make you who you are.
I am so grateful for the people who have become an irreplaceable part of my life. Some have made me think differently. Some have encouraged me. Some have challenged me. Some have picked me up when I was down. Some have torn my heart apart. Some have celebrated me. Some have chosen not to. Regardless of the role they have played, they have made me who I am. Whether it’s been in uni or while I have lived abroad, we have almost all parted ways because of distance. And even so, when we need a reminder of who we are, we can pick up the phone or computer and get that reminder.

 

2. Your heart always has enough room.
Many have said that their children have shown them that their heart expands to infinity–that the love they have to give grows. For me, this has been the people I have met along the way. As I meet people, in different cities, countries…I have come to learn that we have been created with the most inexplicable ability to love. As a muscle, your heart needs exercise. It is the same with choosing to love. Whether this means loving a new person or ensuring you keep in touch with that friend you met in whatever place, however many years ago, our capacity to love, I believe, is simply an act of exercising the muscle. Become too insular and your muscle tightens. Live an open life and your muscle expands and is able to expand infinitely. It doesn’t mean that you can have 10,000 friends all at once, only that simply thinking of someone, sending a note or a prayer can be enough. Or maybe a Skype call once every year will do. Love never has to die.

 

3. Distance is nothing when love is involved.
And to much the same thought, when we choose to love someone, when we make room for them in our hearts, distance will never matter. In fact, that distance can grow your love and truly, no one is ever more than a plane ride away. Some of the most incredible friendships I have were those I met in a foreign place, sometimes even for a relatively short period of time.

 

To end this all…I say simply this.
i carry your heart with me. 
no matter where I go. or who I become. you have touched my heart and you are important to me. 
–––
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
ee cummings

Of Sliding Doors and The In-Betweens

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I only watched the film once, but I still remember that look on Gwyneth Paltrow’s face when the tube doors closed on herself and she watched as she went into the tunnel.

It would be kind of cool if we could have a “sliding doors” moment. One of those moments where we could go back to a time that seemed pivotal in our lives and look what would happen if we had made another decision.

I bumped my head recently, actually, I grabbed a pole that had a sign on it and the sign hit my head. Who freakin’ knew poles MOVED? I didn’t.

My friend text me and said “if this were a movie you would have woken up 12 years ago, having missed your plane to London and never left”. I don’t think he realised how insightful that was.

Dear friends, I have loved my life living abroad. Not only have I experienced the most incredible moments, but the way I have chosen to live has made me the woman I am. In fact, had I not left, some of the pain I dealt with would have, in fact, been much more difficult. God has used these last almost 12 years to show me my dreams, to build my faith, to heal me, to guide me into this next season.

A season that I am still keeping between me and God.

Nonetheless, I have moments where I wonder what life would have been like if I stayed. Where would I be in my faith journey? What path would I have followed? More, I question some of my decisions along the way and think “if only I had gone this way…”.

“If only” moments are genuinely the worst ever. They only ever fill you with regret. So, in the moments when I want to head that direction I try to stop myself and ask, “so what now?” Well, that question, can only be answered when we are at a place of rest or peace…otherwise it is the MUDDIEST OF MOMENTS.

An amazing Swedish friend once told me that he believed this next season of mine was a season of rest. Yeah, so….I didn’t and in the end it has taken probably a year longer than I needed to finally really be able to ask “so what now” from a rested, peaceful and totally trusting place.

The journey has been one of self-discovery, vulnerability and faith than I have truly ever taken before. When I moved to London, I had a purpose. When I moved to Sweden, I had a purpose…and now…now I have a new purpose, one that isn’t as cemented, one that isn’t as guaranteed and how that journey will play out is not as clear.

AND OH EM GEE it is scary. It’s so much easier to step out when there is security.

But aren’t the greatest moments, the most incredible bits are when we jump, leap, take a risk and most importantly…listen to that still small voice inside (you know the one that we hear over and over again and try to ignore).

It is when we follow that voice, the dreams it is whispering into your spirit, it’s then where the leap becomes a small step.

What I learned about being lost

This guy is a bit lost as well…

She asked me “did you lose yourself a long the way?”

And with tears, slowly rolling down my face, I had to answer yes. Anything else would have been a lie.

Lost myself. 

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines lose this way: to fail to keep or hold (something wanted or valued).

To fail to keep a hold of something valuable.

I lost myself.

I lost something valuable.

I just returned from London where I was at my 10th Colour conference. I know that I know that every year God has something to tell me. I mean, I ask him very specific questions and expect answers, so of course He leans in as I lean in. However, there is always something that surprises me. This was it.

Brooke, Juliet, Cass and Sara were talking about worship and miracles when we sang this song. I want to tell you we all came out of that session looking like fashion models, but the truth is that God, in only the ways He can, used that song to speak to 11,000 women individually. I personally ended up removing all make up and starting again…yeah. That pretty.

I digress…

During this beautiful moment I heard the words: “Forget those who rejected you for what you are not and hold close those who love you for who you are.”

Even writing these words causes me to pause as the impact of that drives deep into my being. How many of us have experienced rejection, causing us to question who we are, to undermine the person we are meant to be, to wonder if we are enough, to maybe even lose ourselves for a time?

No one? Just me? Okay, cool I am good if I am the only one.

Except I reckon at least one other person may have experienced this, even for 15 seconds, one day while doing laundry.

So…for that one other person who may have once felt this way, this is your turn around moment or at least I hope it can be.

Hold close those who love you for who you are.

I am a huge fan of not caring what others think. I genuinely try to practice this. Except I realised while I don’t necessarily care what others think of who I am, I do care when they don’t accept me on the basis of what I am not.

Kind of crazy right? Except it’s kind of easy to slip into. While we are off not caring if others accept us for who we are, we are chasing those who find fault in what we are not. So then we end up spending a lot of time trying to be what we are not and undermining the beautiful person you are. Forgetting all the talents and skills you have to offer the world, the person you are and trying to fit into a box that “they” have created.

Michelle, you can speak 5 languages but not this one. Michelle, you are really lovely and everything, but you’re just a friend. Michelle, you have all this experience, except. I can go on and on, but examples don’t really matter.

Because actually…I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And God created me the way I am. He made me for such a time as this, to live out my purpose in only a way I am created to. My skill set and talents are something that I have to answer for. When I step into heaven I want to be able to say that I have used all my talents to the best of my ability.

Now, I am leaving behind those who reject me for who I am not and embracing those who love me for who I am, I have found who I am again.

And so what if maybe I spent a period of time lost. The thing is we are never lost when we stand by God, I believe He just allows us to wander a bit…quietly walking beside us, whispering into our very souls, until we understand once again and find our way back to ourselves, just that much stronger.

And even if you get lost a couple times, you are always welcomed back. Because you belong.