When the Night was Total Darkness

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I won’t lie, I still watch young adult TV all the time. For me, watching television and film are one of the few ways I can completely switch off my brain and relax. It is my often my escape.

I follow the TV show Switched At Birth and have since it’s pilot episode. It covers a lot of topics, in the messy way that real life happens and I enjoy it. Sure, it’s still television and therefore reality is often suspended, but nevertheless, it is as close to life as possible.

Yesterday I tried to watch the latest episode, which came with this warning:

Tonight’s episode contains story lines dealing with sexual consent. Viewer discretion advised.

I am 31, I can handle it. Right? Except, not…because there were triggers.

The episode revolved around Bay, one of the lead characters, waking up next to a man (she knew) without remembering anything from the evening before. Her memories came only in short flashbacks and understanding how she ended up where she was that morning. 10 minutes into the episode I had to stop.

You can read more about the episode and the issues covered here.

You see, it’s been almost 4 years so I did not think it would affect me.

In the Autumn of 2011 I was invited to a party. It was glamorous, rocking and filled completely with 99.9% people I did not know. The evening began fine. Partying with my “date”, a girlfriend I brought with me, meeting famous and semi-famous people and enjoying the crazy atmosphere.

It must have been around midnight when it all went blank and I woke up past 9am the next morning, in my bed, no phone, no clothes and no memory of the last 9 or so hours.

To this day I remember only flashes of that night. What I do recall and what still often haunts me is the day after. It was the darkness that enveloped my spirit and more clearly my mind. It was the fear of the unknown. It was the inability to recall little more than trying to get into a club, trying to take money out of the bank machine and standing with police. Everything I could remember felt like it was happening in one of those really bad dreams where you can’t wake up, but nothing is really clear either.

It was all that came out of that night’s events…the worry of maybe having been raped. To this day I still feel like I could vomit at the thought. Luckily, I was safe and nothing happened to me. I ended up speaking to the cab driver who got me home. I realised through that conversation that I had been drugged.

Me, the good girl. I had been drugged and it was my fault.

It was in the aftermath that I dealt feelings of guilt, moment of anxiety, fear and frustration. It took an already clear inability or fear of vulnerability to an entirely new level.

I am not writing frivolously, not for attention…I am writing to give a voice, or maybe to add a voice to the many out there that are scared to speak.

You may not have been drugged like me, but there is a day or night, a time of your life that was cast in darkness and you may still be struggling with the effects or how even to get out of it.

For me, it was first and foremost my faith in God that, through time, enabled me to work through the issues that arose from that night. What I am now grateful for is that all I went through enabled me to grow as a person. It was also those around me, who I trusted to tell (and not many know), who showed me who I was and how this was not a reflection of me. You are not your circumstances or that which has happened to you.

You, the person reading this, whose stomach is turning in knots right now, whose eyes are filled with tears. Tell someone. Talk. Know you are valuable and worth being treated as a human. You have the right to feel whole and free.

If you feel you can’t tell someone around you, tell me…you are valuable.

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at” or Get out of your comfort zone

 

 

Stood in front of the mirror, fresh from the shower, I had a few minutes to myself before I ventured out into the corridor again. On a winter trip with a few of the teens from my church I decided this was the year I was going to snowboard.

Pretty sure I made it up the KIDDIE hill (or Barnbacken på svenska)…oh, once.

I never thought I’d want to declare war on a tow-lift but alas even getting up the hill on that evil contraption was about as fear-inducing as going down, fast, while my feet were glued to a board.

So there I was, a few hours later, completely covered in bruises and feeling…amazing. Yet something I said to my friend B who was teaching me to board, run in my head…

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

A few nights ago I was out with some friends for a movie when, prior to the movie, we were chatting and my Swedish skills were put to the test. One guy said to me, “Michelle, you need to get out of your comfort zone.”

You see, I can speak Swedish…and I understand so much, but I don’t speak it a lot with my friends. Why you ask?

 “I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

Recently I started running again. I’m still thinking I’m going to sign up to another ½ marathon but for now, it’s just for me. I’m on day 26 of my 365 running challenge now. The first few days were a struggle. Not because of my fitness levels, but because I was pretty sure I looked ridiculous running. Have you seen those images on the internet? Those “What I think I look like when I’m running” vs “what I really look like.” One image usually involves a bikini clad super model and the other a slobbering hound.

Truth is, I don’t look like either of those but it’s amazing what our minds trick us into.

I’m in the middle of what I call my “life break”. It’s actually not a break from life, you can’t take a break from life but you can have a season where things change, where you break away from the norm, where you refocus and redirect. This is the season of life I am in.

It’s a season where I am constantly having to get out of my comfort zone. You see, I have a LOT of dreams and ambitions for life and frankly, prior to August 22 I was living a great life but I was also smack RIGHT in the middle of the comfort zone.

And with all the respect to my old life, which, to many, and even to me, was fantastic…it sucked.

I had become too reliant on norms, comforts and myself.

I was lounging in the comfort zone.

So, being…well me…as you all know I changed my life drastically and with only one focus to ensure I kept running my race well and towards the ultimate goal (Jesus, if you didn’t know). I want all of my life to focus on Him, bringing glory to Him and showing others His love and grace.

I figured if I’m running to Him then everything else will fall into place.

What I have learned though is that following Him has taken me so far out of my comfort zone that I am pretty much constantly uncomfortable.

 

Going to church…

Uncomfortable.

 

Going to school…

Uncomfortable…

 

Writing for Beyond Rubies and SoWorthLoving…

Uncomfortable…

 

Just all…uncomfortable. Although they are seemingly normal and mundane things to one person there are aspects that make all these things uncomfortable to me. There are aspects to each of these things that I am not good at.

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

I know I have been called to a certain life, to accomplish particular things and this season in my life is preparing me for that.

But I think the greatest lesson I have learned is that it’s okay to just not be good at something.

I read this great quote…

As Christians we are called to live in excellence, to do all things for God and not for man.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

And He is going to help us along…

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

So what I am trying to say is this…

Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t step, don’t tip toe…JUMP. He has given you everything you need to accomplish all that He has put on your heart.

 

Start today. Whether it’s writing a book or getting healthy. If it’s asking that girl out or talking to your neighbor who just needs a friend.

 

Do something that you are not good at.

Do something that scares you because you really never know what will come from it or whose life you will impact.

 

I got a letter after I wrote a particularly “scary” post on SWL. Without sharing someone else’s story the letter detailed how the post helped someone through a break up. The truth? I hated writing that post. I cried writing it. I didn’t want to share it because I knew that it might get a couple people angry (if they misunderstood my intentions), it was uncomfortable.

However, as I read the words of one girl knowing that she was worth more than rubies all the uncomfortable feelings I had left me and I realized that although I didn’t like doing it…it impacted someone.

So maybe snowboarding or speaking Swedish perfectly doesn’t seem like something that will impact or make a difference but who knows? At least I’m going to try…

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 from a Formerly Broken Heart

Time to say goodbye: updated...

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love does not envy.

Love does not boast.

Love is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others.

Love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but love does rejoice in truth.

Love always protects.

Love always trusts.

Love always hopes.

Loves always perseveres.

One year ago today these verses pressed against my heart. I wrote them in my journal, I pondered the implications of putting this kind of love into action. I thought through how I was demonstrating them and how in so many ways I lacked real love. The words burned into my spirit and I was unable to shake them from my thoughts.

I thought that I was being drawn to these verses within the context of my own relationship. I was in love, or least falling, and my heart was full. We’d had plans and dreams and I felt secure.

God, how can I show love to him more? How do I show real love?

These words etched into my journal in black ink, over and over. God, why are you showing me this?

You see, that relationship, it was my first real relationship. I have never been the girl to jump into anything serious. Sometimes I think I was being protected, other times I wanted to simply run away, other times I don’t think I could be bothered. Either way, this was my first relationship, my first time falling in love and I was gone.

Looking back, the last few weeks of that relationship were a warning sign that maybe something was off and I struggled with how to deal. I spent hours journaling, praying, trying to understand. It was during this time that these verses kept popping into my mind and touching, even scraping at my heart.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is not easily-angered.

Love is not self-seeking…

Than those words happened that ended it all…

“I can’t love you like you need. I don’t want to.”

Ouch.

I look back over photos from the months following that night. I can still see the sadness in my eyes. Sadness I thought I had hidden in my heart. Many people said I was protected from a hurt much greater than I imagined but when you lose love, more importantly, when you lose that which you love your heart seeks something to grasp onto. I felt like I had nothing. Admittedly, even writing these words has been something I have struggled to do over the past twelve months. Who wants to admit that someone wrecked you? Who wants to admit that you made mistakes in a relationship? Who wants to admit how you felt rejected, broken?

Pride sometimes stood in the way of admitting that it was okay that it was over.

Now, with today being Valentine’s Day, I can admit that there were days I stood in the mirror hating myself. There were days I replayed my entire relationship over and over trying to figure out what could have been done better. There are days where I saw any reminders of him and my heart broke again, not only for my relationship but because I lost my best friend. There were even days I hated him. I think the worst though are the days when you believe love won’t come again. The days when, in my case, you live in an entirely new country, with all new people and you can’t see one day in front of the next. Those days are the scariest for a heart that still has fragile moments. I can admit that there were moments when pride filled my heart and I did not want to tell any one how broken I felt. I felt so unworthy of love.

But slowly, surely and with my heart and mind focused on God He began to reveal to me why those verses burned so deeply days before my relationship ended. He was protecting me before I knew I even needed it. He took the broken pieces of my heart and healed them. Intricately sewing each piece back until the seams were invisible.

Love is patient…in my friend’s ability to let me yammer on about how I was over it…when I wasn’t really.

Love is kind…when my best friend sat with me, letting my cry for hours in her lap.

Love does not envy…standing beside my best friend and soul sister when she got married to the man of her dreams and simply being happy for her.

Love does not boast…when you are celebrating others.

Love is not proud…admitting that I was wrong and apologizing.

Love does not dishonor others…stopping the words to fall out of my mouth when someone wrongs me or others.

Love is not self-seeking…knowing all that your mother gave up for you so you could flourish.

Love is not easily angered…keeping your mouth shut and your heart soft even when you hear lies being told about you.

Love keeps no record of wrongs…remembering the past in peace.

Love does not delight in evil but love does rejoice in truth…making the decision to speak truth for long-term gain instead of short term pain.

Love always protects…knowing when to reveal truth to someone when you know it may hurt.

Love always trusts…taking the next step and letting your heart be open again…

Love always hopes…open to a future with a love greater than what you have already experienced.

Loves always perseveres…trusting the almighty God that His love is so great that He will only bring you better.

LOVE is an action. LOVE is a choice.

So…to quote the ever popular “Love, Actually” then…love, actually is all around.

I’m single and the next time I fall in love I will be better at it. Not because I’m better but because I know God’s love better. I see it in every one around me, I see it in me, I see it in the little ways that God reveals His unconditional, impenetrable and unmoving love.

My hope now is that single or not, my actions, my words, my thoughts demonstrate real love…in all that I do.

love is

On Vulnerability

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“I like you”

Those words can be the best or worst thing an unmarried  person has to hear or say.

In Sweden, as an egalitarian society, the concept of a girl asking a guy out is not unheard of. This turn of protocol is even familiar or dare I say normal. Showing that you are interested or declaring what you want, as a girl, here in Sweden is far more normal than other parts of the world (as far as my experience can permit me to declare).

Having been raised with the  completely opposite state of mind, with a strong sense of tradition and code that says the guy makes the first move, this entire revelation is not empowering but in fact the epitome of terrifying.

It requires vulnerability (and a decision to follow this social more of course)

To be vulnerable means to being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: “we were in a vulnerable position”.

When you allow your heart to be open, to risk rejection you are vulnerable.

The idea that someone can hurt you, break your heart, reject you is one of the hardest concepts to swallow and that’s probably why a lot of us are single for a lot longer than we had hoped.

However, there is someone who will never reject you or break your heart or hurt you. He created you. He knows the hairs on your head. He knew you before you were in your mother’s womb. He knows the life He has for you. He is the Lord God.

He knows the moments He will need to pick you up shattered from a broken heart and the moments where He rejoices in Heaven with you as you make the decision to follow Him.

He knows your ups and downs, your ins and outs. He knows when you stand in front of the mirror and reject the beautiful person you are. He knows the moments you cry out to Him thankful for the life He has given for you. He knows it all.

He knows ALL of these things and He loves you.

So, then I ask myself and you…why is it so hard to be vulnerable with God?

Unlike that person that makes your heart skip, the one who, human like you, has the ability to hurt you, God loves us with a love unparalleled. He loves us so much our human hearts cannot fathom it.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5
And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love…That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; Ephesians 3:17 & 18

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. John 3:16

I was listening to a song by Ne-Yo “I will love you until you love yourself” and I thought that it was such a great representation of God’s love for us (warning: the video is NOT). He will love us no matter what. He loves us on the days we love Him and the days we push Him away. He loves us when we love ourselves and those we do not.

So then why do we find it so hard to be vulnerable in front of the ONE who no matter how hard He tries cannot not love us? Why do we find it so difficult to trust His plans for us?

Three Februaries ago I stood in Hillsong Church Stockholm visiting a friend from high school. I was here on business. One year ago I stood there with my ex after a weekend wedding of that same friend. And this past Sunday, I walked into my church, Hillsong Stockholm and went to my third Vision Sunday, not as a spectator or a guest here but as a leader and member of my church. My path to Stockholm has been a crazy one and simply unimaginable to think that when I stepped on a plane almost 8 years ago to move to England that my life would be here in Stockholm now. However, the thread that has been woven by my heavenly Father is one of love and kindness, of careful planning and purpose.

Looking back I was not always so vulnerable with God (and in particular areas I’m still not). I tried to make plans, to manipulate, to fall at His feet and cry out why? But yesterday, Vision Sunday, was a strong reminder and evidence of what happens when you allow yourself to be vulnerable to the one who created it all.

As for the boy…jury is out. I’m still not sure I can be the one to make a move, but I know that my heavenly father has my heart in His hands and my life will be alright and for that…I am truly thankful.

my peace I give you

Currently

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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.

H.O.M.E

It feels like home to me…

Just know you’re not alone, Cause I’m going to make this place your home…

Another aeroplane, another sunny place, I’m lucky, I know. But I wanna go home, Mmmm, I’ve got to go home…

Ahh, Home…Let me come Home…Home is wherever I’m with you (2x)

La la la la, take me Home, Baby, I’m coming Home…

And finally…

There is no place like HOME.

I think that HOME just might be important to people…

So, what is home?


What does it mean to you?

When you see the word home, when the word passes your lips do floods of warm memories of your childhood home come flooding in? Or perhaps bad memories engulf your thoughts? Perhaps the immediate image is that of the kitchen you had today’s morning coffee in, or the apartment in the last city you lived in. It may even be that home has many meanings to you.

Before I continue on, I’ll give you a bit of my story. I was raised in British Columbia, Canada. My parents worked full-time so I was raised by a village and subsequently I had many houses to live in: my grandparents, my baby-sitter’s and my own house. We then moved into a new house at 13 and at 18 I moved across the country to attend university. There I first lived in residence halls, then in a house then apartment with friends. Meanwhile my parents had divorced and were living in separate houses with new spouses. My belongings packed up and stored. Shortly after university I moved to England where in seven years I lived in 5 different housing situations, mostly with friends but once on my own. I have since moved to Stockholm and live in an apartment with two others who, before I moved in, were strangers and I plan to eventually move in with a friend.

Woah, now that’s a mouthful, but hang on with me…

If HOME is a building, something I attach myself, my memories, my life too then what happens of my heart when that changes?  Am I left with no home? Or a permanent sense of belonging? I say no.

When someone asks me where home is I really do not have an answer. This question is usually paired with, well, where is home? I can’t really say Canada because that’s not the entire story. If I say London, I get a look wondering where my accent is and if I said Germany (where I hold citizenship) I have to explain that I have never lived there.

So…do I have a home?

Home, to me is a not a place, it’s not a person, it’s not even a place that is permanent.

Some say that home is where the heart is…and if that’s the case my home is in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Germany, England and Sweden. My heart is in all those places. I have friends and family, each of whom have a piece of my heart.

So, to me, home is more than where my heart is. Home is a state of mind. It’s a place where I may have lived; it’s a place where I have loved. It’s a place where I am safe and protected and secure.

Home is not a permanent fixture. The first house I ever lived in on Peacock Place is not “home”. At least not the only home I have had. It is a place where memories lie dormant but it’s not complete understanding of home to me.

For some, you may never leave your childhood city or even move out of the home you grew up in (who knows each circumstance). Some of you may be even more extravagant like a beautiful friend of mine who has not stopped travelling for over 5 years moving from place to place to place on a grand adventure. For each of us home will look differently but the most important thing to remember, to even get away from is the dictionary definition of what home is.

The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household.

Get that out of your mind. It’s a constraint, a lock, a wall.

Home is where you make it, the people you let  in and the memories you have and will make.

If what you experienced as home hurt you, than make new memories.

If your childhood home is no longer there, then build a home where you are at now.

If, like me, the physical representation of home changes constantly, feel not weary or displaced but blessed that the world is your home, your family expansive, diverse and full of love.

I think I love the song that says…”home is wherever I’m with you”…

Because YOU are important to me.

I will be a better me

A better me

1st of January.

I love that day. Growing up in the Northern Hemisphere, January is generally crisp and cool. The air feels clean and clear and full of expectation.

Around the world people are waking up with hope and expectancy. Some have said goodbye to a year of pain and for others the year will begin with blissful memories of a year gone by. Whatever 2012 was, 2013 is a blank slate, ready for the artist to create a beautiful piece of art.

I wrote in my previous post that 2012 was nothing that I imagined it to be; change was the word of the year. Truthfully, I spent most of 31 December excited to say goodbye to 2012. It was not that it was the worst year in the world or that nothing good came out of it, so much good came out of it. It was simply that there was little rest in 2013.

So this year, I plan to rest.

REST

Verb 

1. Cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or to recover strength

2. Remain or to be left in a special condition

Noun

1. An instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity

2. The remaining part of something

For me, resting does not mean doing nothing. Instead of being the instigator of more change I will build. A house stands because it is built on a firm foundation and this year my resolutions/goals are based simply around building…

I simply plan to be a better me…in all areas of my life.

I look forward to 2013, with great expectation. I know that there will still be change, that life will move forward, that the unexpected may knock me off guard and I’ll celebrate the joyous moments as well…but I also know that this year is not a year to instigate but to rest, to pause, and to consider…to Selah…with hope and expectation that He who created me, brought me to exactly where I am now and my responsibility is to honor that.

I wonder what YOUR 2013 will be. Is  it a year of change? It is a year of rest?

Why not take some time to stop, think and pray…and consider the year ahead.

do not just let life happen around you.

love x

dear past

Pride before the fall…or the Voice Within

work hard stay humble

A simple warning: this post is raw, it’s truthful and you may not like what I have to say…but hear me out…

Do you ever wonder why you have been given a gift and not been given the chance to use it? The kind of gift that when you knock on doors and try to take opportunities, that every door is slammed in your face?

Now, I am not talking about someone whose grandma, uncle, second cousin or dentist said that you could be famous and frankly, were just being nice. I am talking about real talent and gifts that seem to not be in use.

I have had conversations like this with many people in my life. People who have real talent and when they try and use it, every door is closed. These are people who are humble, talented and just wondering when it will be their turn.

Let’s take one aspect of my life as an example, oh goody…

I have to admit that the last 3 or years has not been easy when it comes to this subject. In fact, I’d say probably since I moved to London this has been something that has bothered me.

You see, I sing. I have been singing since I barely could walk. Ask my parents, aunts, uncles, anyone who has ever taken care of me. Performing has been in me since the days I would memorise entire soundtracks and perform them with dance routines and all. Throughout school and into post-secondary education I performed all the time…even if it was only in our residence lounge, sat around a piano with two of my dearest friends belting out whatever we could remember how to play on the piano or get music to.

Then I moved and for the last 8 years I have barely sang, at least not in comparison to what I used to. Yes, I have done a few weddings and I sang BVs on worship team back in London, but mostly I have just been told “you have a great voice”, “you have a beautiful voice”, or my favourite which basically implied I didn’t have the right look to be singing…that didn’t hurt at all.

I have prayed and prayed and cried and felt rejected. I have tried to understand why I have been put aside. I have tried to understand what I am supposed to do with what I have been given, how I was supposed to honour God in every way when my attempts were shut down.

and…I stopped singing outside of church.

And then recently I realised something…I stopped because I was hurt.

But I was hurt because I was not getting what I thought I should.

Of course my first priority and heart is to serve the church, but just because I am not singing in church does not mean that I cannot sing outside of church. I do not write as part of my serving in church…I’m a youth leader. That does not stop me from being a writer as a profession.

I had taken the fact that I wasn’t using one particular talent in church, projected my feelings of rejection onto that situation and stopped myself from doing everything I loved. No one could stop me from singing outside of church but I did. Singing outside of church was not going to hurt or cause someone to stumble…and yet…I did not do it…

When Paul is speaking to the Corinthians, he talks about causing others to stumble with your actions.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corithians 10:31-33

Colossians goes onto say…in verse 23, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

Just because I am not singing in church does not mean I cannot pursue that in other avenues. I used to sing to elderly people in a social centre. What fun it was to sing Christmas carols and songs from their teenage years to entertain them? I loved seeing their faces light up! I could sing to glorify Him…anywhere (well, not anywhere…but let’s just say anywhere to make my point).

I used to believe that if I was not singing in church I should not sing anywhere and then I realised how prideful that statement was. I was saying that I only wanted to use my gifts to honour God in my way and that if it was not in church, then I was not honoring Him. Who am I to make a judgement like that? That is not humility, it is pride. It is saying that nowhere else is good enough.

I felt sick to my stomach thinking about how wrong I had been…

sidenote: I 100% believe about honouring God and serving in His church, serving His people and doing that with all your heart. I will serve in my local church until the day I die…this is not about a heart for serving but about keeping your heart right when it comes to using your talents in all areas of life. I will serve in whatever capacity there is need and I will seek God and those whose authority I have been put under for direction in serving.

My point is this…

Are you not pursuing a talent simply because someone said no?

Is there pride that you need to deal with?

Have you stopped doing something you loved because where you thought you should be doing it, is not working out?

Perhaps it’s not in church, perhaps it’s at work? Maybe you did not get that promotion you wanted and now you’re not working quite as hard? Perhaps someone said no to a project you wanted to work on, so you have laid it by the way side?

Why is it that just because another human being says no that we just give up?

Why do we let pride get in our way?

So with that in mind…

What is in your heart that hurts so much to keep it in?

What talents should you be developing right now?

Psalm 119 says that thy word is a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet. I once heard that God only lights enough of the path so you can take the next step…but what are you doing in the light you see now? How are you preparing for the next step?

If I am not practising, song-writing, taking every opportunity to sing, then how can I be ready for the next step? Furthermore, if I stop singing simply because one person says no…what does that say about my passion or how I honor what God has given to me?

And who knows? We often only see the future according to our present. We see what could be based on what we know NOW but maybe God has not lit up the path further because you would freak out if you saw what was ahead…

Instead of playing it small, feeling sorry for yourself (hey, I’m so preaching to myself here) or hiding your talents, work on them…

I’m a writer. I do not choose to write. It chose me. I do not want to write. I have to write. I never let anyone stop me from writing…

So why would I let someone stop me from singing?

I may never be a famous singer, I’m not even sure that is what I want. I just want to sing and to do whatever I can to serve people with my voice, just like my writing…I cannot predict the future but I can humbly seek Him and honour every gift I have been given by stewarding it correctly.

I hope that through this post you heard my heart. I hope that, like me, if there is something you need to work on, a bit of a heart adjustment, that you take a quiet moment, reflect and ask God to help you with that.

It’s not easy, trust me…it hurts. A lot…

x

The Risk of an Unknown Future

I read somewhere (probably Pinterest) that “only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”

Basically, you have to move in order to get anywhere.

The thing is, that, like most things in life, this is far easier said than done.

I went home to London last week to spend some time with friends, celebrate Thanksgiving and just get out of Stockholm for a mini break. More than those reasons I went back to make sure that I had made the right decision to leave.

You see, as mentioned in previous posts, London was comfortable for me. I have amazing friends there and I had a good job. I was well connected…I did not have any reason to move on…except that by staying I was stopping God from changing and challenging me. I was stopping myself from growing.

Leaving London meant a lot of risk but with risk came reward.

Even now, as I build my life in Stockholm I have my moments where I wonder about what I left in London, who I left in London and how all that will work out…but in my heart I know that taking a risk, moving somewhere with seven weeks notice was exactly what I had to do. New studies, new friends, new company…

So, I’m wondering what risks you may need to take?

Do you need to ask for a raise?

Do you need to look for a new job?

Do you need to tell your friend what has been bothering you?

Do you need to finally ask that girl out?

Do you need to say yes to that guy who has asked you out and you were not quite sure about?

Do you need to finally make that big move?

I do not know what risk you may need to take…and I really cannot make the decision for you but I do know that nothing will change until you move.

This isn’t the most complicated of posts and the message is not hard to understand. However, the response is the hardest.

Taking risks always involve the possibility of failure, pain or simply an uneasy feeling. Even those that have failed, like past relationships, were worth all the hurt because it not only taught me about myself but about my trust in the one who created me.

Sometimes I think that we do not take risks because we do not think we are enough. We stop ourselves from trying new things or getting out of our comfort zone because our confidence in ourselves is lacking. We look at the decision that is in front of us and think, “What if I am not enough?” For me, it was the fear that I did not have it in me to go back to school and balance a Masters with starting my own company. I didn’t think that I could do it until I stopped and reflected upon what I had done thus far in life. If you have a confidence issue then what are you doing to get a bit of faith in yourself?

Marianne Williamson said that it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us, 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 and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. 

So who are you not realize you are worthy of a beautiful, fulfilled and successful life? Who says you cannot take a risk and go for it…

Leap…

You never know what you’ll find when you land.