An Unapologetic Year

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“You know what attracted you to me? The way you don’t apologise for who you are”

That was 4 years ago and somewhere between that conversation, all the moments, circumstances and conversations past, and the present I changed.

Sure, I tried to get it back. Half-heartedly really; I even began 2015 with a drive to kick some butt. I even wrote a blog about it. I said I wouldn’t be afraid to sing again…

Now, it wasn’t that I completely lost myself, I even took a few steps forward. I got a bit of my backbone together again, I took a huge step in my health (and constantly need to remind myself of that), I achieved a few good bits.

But when I look in the mirror I noticed one thing.

I lost the light in my eyes.

I was looking through some old photos and wondered what was different. Yeah my hair was different, but that’s not abnormal. I am thinner now. Okay, fine. But what? It was deeper, it was in my soul. Cue dramatic music.

Seriously though? What was it that took away my drive? What was it that made the shine disappear.

And then it came to me…quietly. 

I allowed people to affect me. 

I allowed rejection to overcome me. I allowed other’s opinions take over. I allowed other people’s standards to affect mine.

I put less emphasis on the way I wanted to live my life and the dreams I had, the goals I set for myself to be determined by “them”.

oh the dreaded “them”. Who is that? Well,  it can be what we believe others think of us. It can be the parent who doesn’t seem care enough or the boyfriend who breaks up with you. It can be the girls’ at the gym who stare. It can be the boss that tries to bring you down because of his or her insecurities. It can be standards of the culture or world we live in.

Except that years ago I chose not to live by the standards of others. I chose to live for God, with excellence, with grace & forgiveness. 

“Never apologize for having high standards. People who really want to be in your life will rise up to meet them.”

Well, somewhere along the line I started to apologise.

And somewhere along the line the shine in my eyes started to dim.

We all go through ups and downs in life. The darkest times do often bring the brightest lights, but it’s when we allow those moments, those people to define us, then we lose our way.

No one is perfect all the time. I love the fact that I am a really hard person to read, that I have high standards, that I can swear like the best of them one minute, but then have a philosophical discussion on the existence of love in this world the next. I like the fact that I am not like everyone else and that I live with a hope greater than this world. This world is hard and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

And I miss the girl who didn’t give a … (ahem)

Because that girl got sh*t done and I have pushed her away for too long.

And I have one life. One moment to make my mark. Why am I allowing anything, anyone to stop that?

No longer.

I will find my focus. You find yours. I will not apologise for who I am. I will be more vulnerable. I will dream more. I will take time to do what I need to do. I will say yes and I will say no. I will not allow fear to overcome me but instead remember that I have been given a spirit which overcomes fear. I will sing. I will dance. I will watch obscure movies. I will kiss more. I will worship more. I will be me. Can you be you? Because I love it when you are you.

So, here is to 2016 and letting that light shine.

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 
Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ‘A Return To Love’ (1992) by Marianne Williamson

A different kind of me

So, it’s January 26th (I think?) and today I’m writing about my new year’s resolution.

My journal for the year, the personal one, the one that is filled with inspirations, doubts, dreams, broken promises and resolutions is sitting near me. On the first page it simply states “I figure, if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one”. Calamity Jane everyone. A legend.

Every year I take some time to refocus, give myself a word or two to focus on for that year and then write some goals around those. What does my relationship with God, my health, my career, my family, friends and love life look like in context of all this.

This year my words were simple and interlocking. They’re my words, but they all came with an overarching question over them.

Is what I choose today going to affect what I want tomorrow? Will my today negatively or positively impact what I want long-term?

I am blessed. I have people around me who love me. I know that sounds cheesy or maybe even prideful, but these people who love me, why I consider myself most blessed, is that they challenge me. They challenge me to be a better woman, person, friend, daughter, employee, worker, ME.

One of the best questions I was ever asked was why I allow myself to do things, or allow things to happen to me, which will inhibit the woman I am becoming, the person I want to be.

That struck my heart…probably at that moment mainly because they were asking me about relationships and my apparent inability to trust men. Fabulous right? Not so much.

Anyway, that question stuck with me and has slowly, over the past year buried itself deep and began to blossom into what has now become my 2015.

There is nothing particularly spiritual about this post, though it does affect that part of my life. There is no major scientific studies around what I am doing. It is simply a question…

Is what you are choosing now going to affect your future positively or negatively? 

It’s in every decision, every action, every mood or feeling.

If I choose to go to work out or not.

If I choose to sleep because I am tired or not.

If I choose to date that guy…or not.

If I choose to have coffee with that person or not.

You see, rather than spend the moments, the money, the time, the resources, I have chosen to invest them (thanks Andreas).

I am never going to be a help to anyone if I am not the person I am supposed to be. My daily decisions, your daily decisions should be ones which you and others will get a return from.

So, ask yourself this…

What choice am I making?

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To Honour her Legacy

love is new

My beautiful Oma passed away a few months ago and today, as I washed the blanket she carefully crocheted for me just ten years ago I was reminded of the lessons she left me. In the last couple of years of my Oma’s life I saw her less and less, but I came to realize more and more how much I was like her. Perhaps this is the reason that we butt heads so often…our fiery, stubborn personalities were what bonded us and created tension all at once.
Personality aside, I learned a lot from Oma  and I reckon the world needs more people like her so here are a few pieces of My Oma…

1) Even the pennies count: I can be guilty of spending money simply for the pleasure of a good cup of coffee or that feeling of a brand new, snugly sweater. However, my Oma, a pastor’s wife and a child of war understood, sometimes to a fault, the value of money. While she too loved beautiful things she also picked up literally EVERY penny.
She knew that money had value and that we should not wasted anything. Her habit of picking up every penny meant that we all always had our favourite chocolate or treat waiting at Oma’s house.

Which leads me to the next point…

2) Value every one individually: Although Oma had 4 kids and a plethora of grandkids, most of which are female, she understood that we all needed different things. Oma knew that spending time with me, cuddling on the couch spoke to my love languages. She understood that always having Opa’s favourite cologne or jam spoke to his needs. Even in death Oma was prepared. Just days after her promotion to heaven Opa, with tears in his eyes spoke to me of how he found his favourite jars of jam stacked up in the cupboard, waiting for him, as if she knew she was going.
Oma knew that we all need different things in life, whether it was a hug or are favourite cookies Oma understood the power of loving individually.

 

3) The power of the living word: Oma never got out of bed without spending time with God and his Word. Whenever I stayed at Oma and Opa’s house we would read our devotions and pray together. I never felt like I could conquer the world more on those days and when I did feel a bit weak I remembered Oma would have spent time praying for me that morning. I was covered. She taught us that no matter the circumstance we were in God was there for you, through prayer or his words.

 

4) Honesty: My grandparents could fight! I think my aunt and I got all our fiery spirit from my Oma. I didn’t know her as a mom, I knew her as a grandma, something very different than what Oma may have been like as a young woman…However, Oma was never dishonest. She told you and everyone else what she thought, but because she loved you, you knew it was okay. Oma was the only person who told me that my ex wasn’t the person for me. She was quiet but firm and I appreciated it now (not so much then I can tell you…). Her desire for truth and direct attitude showed me that in this world that’s the only way to live. Why be anything you are not? What do you gain by not being truthful.

 

5) What love is: Okay, so Oma is not the only one who taught me this lesson, many people have contributed to this very important lesson…but Oma showed me in ways only a grandmother can…
In how she got up early to peel grapefruit for ALL the grandkids.

In how she made us all “Oma cookies” for every birthday.

The way she stayed up and sang me to sleep when I was afraid.

The way she honoured my Opa and the calling to ministry they had on each of their lives.

Love is not only a choice but it is also truly practical. You can say I love you all you want but it’s only in your actions that love is truly felt.

I don’t know where my life will take me or whom I will share it with, but no matter who crosses my path I hope that I can carry on the legacy of love shared with me and all those whose lives she touched.

Keep me from getting carried away

let it be

The first time I ever heard Christine Caine speak she spoke about being pregnant.

It was my first time at a Hillsong Women’s event and I was a bit overwhelmed. I had only been living in London 2 months and everything was up in the air. I had no permanent job (at least not what I wanted to be doing) and well, pretty much my entire life was ahead of me. I listened to Christine talk about how there is a reason that women need to be at full term before giving birth. If the baby comes too early then it just isn’t the time.

I was, admittedly, distracted or even too focused on trying to get life right, to really allow this message to set in. I wish I had listened better because I could have avoided a lot of heartache.

Too early, too late, not the right time…

All these things have been factors in my life and if I’m direct, it has not been until recently that I have seen the affects that being impatient or not letting things developed has had on my life.

I’m a planner. If you read any of my posts from the last year or so you’ll see this is a theme I constantly struggle with. I like to know what’s next, what will the outcome be, where life is going.

However, as I listened to a song as I walked home this morning, I realized that has all changed. While of course, habits do not change overnight or in a split second, so I’ll likely still have my moments, I have come to realize that I am okay with waiting.

 

Out there

Thousand years into the future

Almost nothing of it seems sure

Things so rarely stay the same

Right here

In these burning simple seconds

Living out all your best guesses

Someone’s calling out your name

And you get carried away

Carried away (carried away, carried away)

Carried away (carried away, carried away)

Carried away (carried away, carried away)

Carried away (carried away, carried away)

 Teach me to know my number of days

Hold out my heart from getting carried

 

I’m one of those visionary type of people. I have ideas, I like projects, I love creating. My heart can easily get carried away with what will be.

However, just like a baby needs to be in the womb for a certain amount of time in order to develop, grow and be strong, so too is this the same for many aspects of life.

I want to give examples of things that you may need to wait for but something doesn’t feel right about that. I can however, tell you that I personally am at a stage where I am okay to wait.

You know when you’re making pancakes and you bite into a mouthful of batter? If you had just left the temperature a bit lower and let them cook a bit longer they not only would not have been burned but also, they would have been cooked all the way through. They would have been perfect.

In a season where for me, everything has changed and is in a bit of a “pull the arrow back before it’s launched” kind of season, I’m ready to wait. No pressure, no worry, no getting carried away…

Just living a life, loving it, enjoying the process and seeing where it all goes…

“keep my heart from getting carried…away”

 

Break the Walls Down

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And you got nowhere else to go
And you’re lost within your own home
And you’re trying so hard to win
You keep trying its embarrassing
And how you don’t even know
But you know you’re off the tracks
And how did you get in here
Thinking how did I get in here

I’ll help you break the walls down
I’ll help you break the walls down
And bust you out and take you home
Believe in me you are not alone
I’ll help you break the walls down

-The Rocket Summer, Walls

Brick by brick. Stone by stone.

With each broken promise, with every dream never realised, with each empty word falling flat, the walls were built.

With each slanderous word, with each whisper of gossip, with each backstabbing thought, the walls were built.

With each painful glance at the mirror, with each damaging thought, with each murmur of self-doubt, the walls were built.

With each break up, with each broken friendship, with each moment of abuse, the walls were built.

Brick by brick. Stone by stone.

The walls went up. and up. and up.

-mp. 2013

Your walls look different than mine. Mine may be brick, with graffiti and big windows. Yours may be concrete, scratched by years of pain or maybe wood, damaged by the rain of tears.

Walls are dangerous. While healthy boundaries force you to look up and keep you protected, walls keep you hidden, closed off and unable to grow.

A lot of the time our walls are invisible to us. The walls we have built are for protection against more pain (in whatever form). They keep the abuser at bay, they keep the potential of heartbreak from existing, they hold the world away.

These walls are usually not visible to others, in fact, often over compensation leads those around you to believe you are just fine. We act out in order to preserve our dignity; over compensate to hide the pain.

Admittedly I have built walls more than once in my life. Self-preservation yielded the need to hide, to run away, to close off so that as not to allow someone else to tell me that I wasn’t good enough…

I stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped being me because “me” wasn’t good enough.

Most recently I built up walls around my heart. My mom told me I am stand offish. I’m not even sure that’s a real word but apparently whenever she sees someone show interest I turn into stone.

What I thought was healed was merely mended. Although no longer in pain the next step, the one that would allow me to move on was to break down the walls.

For the former, breaking down the walls meant getting up in front of a whole lot of my friends who had never heard me sing and just belt it out at a friend’s wedding in France. It was there that I found the courage to break the walls down and believe that I was enough.

Now, for me, it’s vulnerability of the heart. In this case, when it comes to my heart, it means letting someone in again. It means even simply allowing myself to be myself with another person, to let him see me, to know me, to consider the possibility of more. It’s often a prayer, a cry out to God, going…protect me Lord, because I’m trying here…

The thing with walls is, that even if they were built because of something done to us, we choose to be victims and build the walls. Walls are built because we do not feel that we are enough. We may not feel that we can overcome the pain, the abuse, the heartache…whatever the case may be (and to varying degrees these things are not easy and may require, in some cases, professional assistance*), but they do take a first step of believing that we are good enough for a complete and fulfilled and whole life.

Understanding your value and knowing you are completely worthy of being whole is not easy. It requires acceptance of flaws, understanding that no one is perfect, and most importantly, I believe, the knowledge that you were created with a plan in mind. Intricately, fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Knowing that the King of Kings loves you and planned your very existence can help break those walls down.

He wants you to be whole, to live a full life, in relationship with Him and in healthy relationship with others.

go on, let Him break your walls down.


side note: if you or someone you know needs professional help please contact your local church or medical professional, or talk to a friend. We’re not in this life alone. x

A Lesson to my 18 year old self…

the past

author’s note: I wrote this a few weeks before I moved to Sweden. I didn’t share it then, but I thought why not? We can always learn from our past. 

I was 22 with a degree plus a bunch of other letters in front of my name…I packed my bags, booked a plane ticket and moved to England, alone. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, or what was next;  I only knew that I wanted out of Canada and that I liked the idea of being in PR. Admittedly I have spent a lot of the last seven years trying to figure this all out…

So here I am…a few years past 18… and my life just changed all over again…I cannot tell you what you should do for a living or who you should marry but I can tell you what I have learned…a girl, trying to be a good woman and trying to honour this life I have been given while I’m here…

1. Don’t expect the world to do anything for you…instead, expect to be the person who goes above and beyond.

You will stand out in whatever environment you are put in, whether it’s work, serving in church or living with your new housemates. When you choose to put in the extra bit of effort that will be seen. My boss was always amazed that I ask for reviews every 3-6 months; however I’m the only one in our team who has been promoted twice in three years. Go the extra mile and people will notice…

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

2. Don’t get expect to stay in the same job for the rest of your life…instead, be faithful in what you are doing, take opportunities and let that which gets you excited guide you.
I left my post-secondary education believing I was going to walk into my perfect PR job and just be fabulous. What a shock when 2 months into living in London I had already been a temp and started working back at Starbucks. It took four and a half years before I landed my PR role which I loved and which has formed the basis for my future studies and owning my own company. And you know what? All the skills big and small; from learning how to set up a phone system to taking up Dutch (temporarily) as another language, that I picked up working in other roles, were the very things that got me that job.
3. Don’t take yourself so seriously…instead, laugh at the awkward moments, understand your heart will heal and that who you are is far more important than what you do. 

I have to say I spent far too much of my 20s caring what others thought of my job, my looks, the boys I dated and where I was going to be in 30 years. Then one day I heard a very popular Christian folk singer from New Zealand talk about how God created me to show love and be loved and at that moment my life changed (albeit slowly and it was a process). It was easier to be generous with my time, my finances, my entire being. I could just be me and as I allowed myself to be comfortable in that I began to really become the woman God created me to be.\
4. Don’t live a mundane or mediocre existence…instead, live a life full of passion.
Whatever you love, go for it. Do everything you do like you only have today…because honestly, that’s all we’re promised. Love with all your heart. Eat well. Exercise with effort. If you love writing, write all the time. If you love coffee, become your own at home expert. People who live life with passion go far and are far more interesting than those who just get on with it… 

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15
 
And when life gets too hard, stop, breathe and thank God He gave you life…the life you’re living, your unique and perfect existence. Remember you can only make the impact that you can make. No one else can be you, so go out, be you in every way…

Currently

swl quotes

So something a bit new in 2013! Once a month I’ll share a “currently” post. I believe we can get inspiration from many people and many places and once a month I’ll share what is inspiring me and maybe inspire you a bit.

Loving: Winter! I didn’t realise how much I love winter until I moved to Stockholm. The clothes, the warm drinks, the crispness in the air. I have discovered a love of winter (and fun new clothes) that I never knew. Now i’m just in search of the perfect fire place to sit beside and keep warm…and maybe someone to keep warm with! 😉

Watching: Mad Men. I am about 6 episodes in and I’m still unsure of whether I rate the show or not. I think from a TV studies perspective I can appreciate the history, the style, the clothes and the culture; however the misogyny and over-sexualised nature of the show puts me off.

Anticipating: Taking the youth on a snowboarding/skiing in a few weeks. Not only am I excited to see what God is going to do in their lives but I also get to learn to snowboard. Let’s see if I get off my butt at all!!

Listening to: Alicia Keys, The Civil Wars, Eisley, Lifehouse and The Lumineers…all the newest albums.

Planning: Rebranding this website. It’s a big job and slightly overwhelming. I’ve also got a second project on the go and thinkingabout the wisdom of when to start it!

Working on: patience. Is this an ongoing battle that I’m always going to struggle with? 

Thinking about: Not thinking about the future. Isn’t that funny? This is actually an area I struggle with a lot. I want it all now. I’m a true visionary at heart and getting from point A to point B may have a bunch of steps but I rather skip them, even if I know that I need them all to get to where I’m going. No one ever ate an entire cake in one bite.

Wishing: I had the finance to see my friends more and more. I miss the coffees, the walks, the evenings spent just hanging out with so many. I’m going to have to get better at Skyping!

And now to leave you with a little treat. The following was written by Cory Copeland. Thanks Cory for letting me repost!  You can find his website here or on Twitter here. I had been thinking over and pondering this topic when Cory’s post came up on my newsfeed. Please take a second and read and maybe even follow his blog too!

enjoy

Michelle

What Kind of Wrecker are You?

-cory copeland

What does it mean to be wrecked, exactly? Not in the way one car wrecks another, but the kind of wrecked when something or someone comes along and completely discombobulates your life, mind, and heart. Everything you thought you knew is now in question because for once, you’ve been awoken to new truth. To be wrecked is to be reduced to rubble and rebuilt. And this wrecking can produce itself in good and bad ways.

They say love is a wrecker. We’re marching along, happy and satisfied though wanting, and suddenly, our world is turned upside down by some ardent lover. We are wrecked from the first day because we weren’t aware we could feel these things or speak those words. They lift us up and brighten our life. We love them and they return that love tenfold. It’s all so wonderful and meaningful.
But as time passes, we grow accustomed to one another and we become comfortable. Eventually, our effort passes by the wayside and we merely exist in each other’s company. Soon after, the fights start and the passion that once burned so brightly between us turns to white hot rage. Filth spills from our mouth as we hurl insults at this person we once cherished. We do our best to hurt them, to reduce them, to wreck them.
The ending is inevitable and comes much later than it should have. We are undone and we are broken for a spell. What once was a wrecking of saintly beauty has turned us into a twisted form of bruised feelings and lonely regret. Love has wrecked us.

They say love is a wrecker. We’ve played this game before and are leery of its black magic. We proceed with caution, but the curiosity is too much for our sensibilities to resist. This new angel has appeared and with it, has cast away every doubt and hesitation we once held. We step slow but steady, proceeding at a comfortable pace because we’ve been wrecked by that wretched potential before and we aren’t in a hurry to be back there. But this new hope pulls us forward with grace and charity. Slowly, beautifully, we are becoming wrecked once again.
The nights are softer and the days feel longer. Everything is sweeter and moves slower. We feel whole again and want nothing more than to be with our lover forever. We speak sweet and smile wide. Cross words rarely pass through our lips and anger feels like a thing of our past. We are happy now and we are wrecked in goodness and love. Our once desperate life was found a new meaning steeped in graciousness and beauty. We are fulfilled. We are satisfied. Reduced to nothing and rebuilt, we have been wrecked.

And while it’s possible you’ve experienced both of these scenarios as I have, a begging question is brought forth.

What kind of wrecker are you?

Do you fill those around you with happiness and grace? Or do you selfishly take what you can and leave those around you wrecked and angry?
Are you a faithful friend and lover who aches to make others whole? Or are you in search of your own fulfillment and your own desperate treasure?
Do you wreck others in goodness and beauty? Or do you leave them broken and regretting the time spent in your company?

We all will wreck and we all will be wrecked. With guarded hearts and hopeful vision, we can avoid the lesser and wreck this world with love and understanding.