Why I Will Always Be a Romantic

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picture from pinterest

The dictionary defines romantic as this: marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized.

Heroic.

Adventurous.

Remote.

Mysterious.

Idealized.

All these words in some way, I can ascribe to my life. Six days into what I have labelled #mybiggrandadventure I can only be sure that I will never, ever, ever stop being a romantic.

I simply do not have it in my blood. In my heart.

I won’t accept average. I simply won’t accept the idea of settling. I won’t accept that “that’s just the way life is”.

In the last six days, and actually, even in the days prior to me leaving Stockholm, I experienced love that was more than I could imagine. I cry, I know that, but I cried so often, simply out of gratitude for what had been and what was coming. The moments spent with friends, whether making pancakes or sitting “working” together in a cafe, touched me so much. I was often overheard saying I was overwhelmed by the displays of friendship that I was privileged to receive. Little did I know that from the moment I got off the plane I would not feel sadness, maybe a LOT of jetlag, but no sadness. Aside from a bad cold and a back injury, I have had the most incredible few days. No, I haven’t been discovered and now starring in a new film, nothing so grandiose. Instead, I have spent days with beautiful people, doing the simple things in life. Taking drives, having lunch, taking selfies, sitting a top Hollywood and dreaming of what may be one day, sitting on benches in the DTLA, catching up over the last years. Those are the moments I am most thankful for. Those are the moments that show me that I should never stop being a romantic.

Why?

Because these simple moments are the evidence of the greatest romance we can have in our lives, that of a relationship with God.

Romance isn’t romance if it happens every day, every moment. What makes life special if every day you receive a rose? It is in the ups and downs of life, where God gives you those simple moments, that makes life as romantic as I can ever imagine.

My relationship with God is real. We laugh, we cry, we yell (well, I do), we have our ups and downs, but if it is all I ever have in life, it is worth it. It is the greatest romance.

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

Loss Vs the Potential for Gain

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There’s very little length to this blog today. Simply a lesson I am learning more and more.

If it’s worth saving, it’s worth losing. 

There are many situations in our lives where we weigh out the potential for loss. We consider risk when making decisions.

How often have I heard a friend say “I would have asked him out, but if he says no?” or “I really think she needs to know this before she marries him.” or maybe, “He hurt me and I don’t know how to tell him, what if it makes it worse.”

These are of course, just three simple examples where we consider the risk of being honest with someone. Honesty in this day seems to be very difficult. It’s often hard to be honest and even more difficult to take.

One internet meme says it well. In reference to a long-marriage the quote says, “they came from a time where you fixed what was broken instead of throwing it away.”

We are in an age of hyper-communication and yet we tend to shy away from real communications, instead opting for niceties, likes and/or passive aggressive communication. We worry about saying something what could be deemed as harsh, negative or, even in many cases, just put us into a vulnerable position. Honesty is scary.

But when we love someone it’s worth it. Just like our parents put boundaries on us or discipline us because they love us, when we care about someone, when we love them, words end up only helping.

I don’t want to go halfway. I don’t want friends (and I mean real friends, not acquaintances) with whom I can’t bare my soul. I don’t want leave a broken mess behind me.

If I care enough about keeping it, I care enough about losing it.

If it was real it won’t stay broken long.

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.

Surrender: one dash vulnerability, take away the pride

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Sometimes I hate social media.

Funny, as my work, my audience, my connections around the world, very much rely on this form of media to connect, maintain and grow all sorts of relationships.

This isn’t a post on the dangers of social media, or SoMe, but only as a catalyst to illustrate my recent lessons.

But we’ll get back to that.

Some of you may remember a book written a few years ago called “If you want to walk on Water, you got to get out of the boat“. Well, boy have I stepped out of the boat recently.

Last week I gave up my apartment here in Stockholm. (This will come as a surprise to some of my local readers)…sorry I haven’t had the chance to tell you.

I gave up my apartment, I’m putting most of my belongings in the storage and moving in with my bestie (in a tiny, studio apartment).

Why?

Because when you want to walk on water, you need to get out of the boat.

AND DANG, that boat is really, really, really hard to get out of. Like, people, I am pretty sure I had put up military-style fencing around the edge. I liked my safe life, my beautiful life, with my pretty apartment and my gym membership and my monthly mail order make up. Except that it wasn’t moving forward. I wasn’t really living my purpose. Too often over the last couple of years things were going off kilter and a line had to be drawn.

So, I tore that fence down and jumped in.

The truth is, aside from a freelance writing contract and a few bits and pieces, the future is a beautiful blank canvas. God has given me tools to impact people around me, make a difference while I am here and a shift needed to happen.

I have to admit, and this is hard, that it’s so easy to look back and go “oh, okay, so I was on purpose here and then…oops I stepped off”. Except, that’s not actually the case. We spend, oh, maybe I just spend too often looking at what we see as missteps, what in actual fact, God has used, planned or not, to refine me.

In order for me to really get out of the boat I had to get to this point. Stubbornly, it may have taken me longer than He wanted, or perhaps, it’s exactly the right time. I don’t believe it’s my concern. I believe only that God has me here, now, in a place I can be completely moulded by Him.

Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

If you look up how to make a clay pot you will see that the potter has to have a strong hold on the clay, gently, but slowly applying pressure so that He or She can shape and refine the clay into the desired shape.

The clay, like us, in order to be moulded must surrender it’s natural shape in order to become the master’s design.

We too, have to completely surrender, allowing God to apply pressure and constraints in our lives, in order to become who He desires us to be, in order to best live our lives for His purpose, our purpose.

So what’s the formula? Well, I reckon this is where it comes down to two main areas.

Remove the pride and add a dash of vulnerability (a very big dash).

This is my experience, and feel free to argue. Let’s go back to the SoMe example. We are inundated with images on Instagram and Facebook, and texts about everyone else’s lives. We see the new boyfriend, the new fiancee, the big house, the better job etc…ALL THE INTERNET and our pride swells up. Why doesn’t my life look like that?

Well, first of all because that’s not your life. And secondly, it probably does, to someone else. But that’s a whole other blog…

Pride takes us on a path that is often not ours to take. I have this great sweatshirt that says “Thou Shalt Run Your own race”. When pride takes over, we end up running towards someone else’s goal, we run in their lane and run against where we are supposed to go.

But when we keep our eyes focused on the main thing and ask for, listen to the Holy Spirit things change. Our course changes.

Seriously though, this is hard. Especially when maybe our track was always meant to go this way and then that, but we are still running the way we were meant to last year. Pride sees only what WE as humans see…what we can accomplish. It takes us off track or keeps us on the path when we should have taken a left.

So, now that we are working on pride…let’s make it a bit more difficult and really get in there.

Vulnerability.

Dang that word hurts. Vulnerability, we think, means putting our trust in someone else. In fact, I am realising that it’s so not about other people. It’s about being vulnerable enough to really hear the Holy Spirit whisper and then act on it. If God opens doors that no one can close and closes doors no one can open, then it doesn’t really matter if we are vulnerable with the humans in our lives. Of course they’re the vehicle, but listening to the Holy Spirit allows us to understand where, when and with whom we should be vulnerable with.

So, truthfully this is a blog that has no real ending. These are daily and even hourly lessons I am currently learning. The good old “lay it down” and surrender it all is a constant journey and one that isn’t a chore, but a path to glorious freedom.

To be continued…