Thursday, 26 March 2015

Seeing the Opportunity

I sat at my desk doing regular admin stuff. 
Trying to keep mind thinking about the weather and kids and dinner.
Life as I know it.
Not perfect, but pretty nice in the grand scheme of things.

He walked in and he wasn't the usual type who walks into an arts centre and gallery in the middle of the day.

He told me he was trying to get his poetry published and was wondering where to start.

I thought for a minute, knowing we didn't offer those services or helps...
"That's great", I said, "unfortunately we don't provide anything like that here..."

He interrupted before I could finish the sentence, defensive...noticeably too familiar with being shut-down, turned away, cut-off.

"I wasn't saying you guys did that stuff...."

And then the transparency and the truth. 
Raw and hard to hear, yet surprising and maybe refreshing in its rareness.

"It's just that I'm homeless ya know...yeah, I live at that know, drugs and alcohol. And I write and I want to do something with it, and I don't really know where to start."

Time stopped for me right there, right then. 
Dinner and the weather and other diversions seemed a long way off in the distance.

I looked at him - in his eyes.
All of the things he just told me....I wouldn't have known.
He just seemed like an edgy kid, with a cold, in a hoodie.

I repositioned myself to let him know that I wasn't distracted.
My leg brushed the panic button dangling under the desk.

"That's really great that you're using your creativity...have you tried the library? They sometimes have writers circles and they could probably gear you in the right direction."

His gaze was intense. 
And I met it with mine.
"Thanks, do you have to pay for those circles", he asked.

I told him I was pretty sure they were free.

He turned to leave, and then paused and looked back...
"Hey, do you want to hear one of my poems?"

I told him I'd love to.

He took off his hood and straightened his ball cap. He almost started and then smiled and said, "it's from 2008 and it's at least 30 seconds DON'T interrupt me."

He shared from memory, it was rhythmic spoken word, and it was a statement on how society tells you they care, but they usually don't. 
He was flawless.

I didn't look away once. I watched him for the duration. 


I told him it was awesome.
He did a great job.
He asked me my name and told me his.
He said thanks for the info.
I told him good luck.

I was struck by his transparency. 
He had a lot to hide - we all do - but he didn't hide it.

He vulnerably offered up what he had to offer and took the chance that someone would want to hear it. Why do I think my offering might not measure up?

He asked for help and direction, and gave ME the opportunity to jump into his path for a split second. Why do I fake strength where I'm weak...and forgo the opportunity for growth and community?

I am well acquainted with the journey, downfalls and lifelong struggles of addiction. I know that he has a hard road ahead of him. 

But I happen to believe that God's got his number, and knows His name...and that He's got better plans for him than addiction and homelessness and struggle. I believe because of this:

I want to walk through life with open mind, open heart, and open hands.
I want to be part of the movement that restores...and sees the promise behind the pain.
That day, that interaction, it was a Divine set-up. 
It was an opportunity.
I'm thankful for it.
I always want to see the opportunity.

Check out this guys' opportunity and what he did with it ~ amazing.

A Pizza Shop Customer's Kind Gesture Turns Into Pay-It-Forward Campaign

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Shout Out to the Play-It-Small-Gals

What does stepping out look like to you?
What arena in your life is hinting - I know you have more to offer than you let on?

I think many of us are play-it-small-gals...for lots of reasons.

I also realize more and more that if you take the time to really hear, and see, and know the women around you, you’ll find out that even the ones who seem to be living large and playing beautifully into their own strengths... also have insecurities, questions of worth, and a failure or mistake that they just can’t seem to forget.

Have you ever heard the line of thinking - ‘happiness is a form of courage’?

I believe the same can be said for bringing what you have, and who you are, into the playing field and unapologetically announcing...

“I’m here to contribute because I've got something great to offer.”

Freaky Friday right?

I know.

Someone gave me a huge compliment recently and it will likely only ring true as a compliment to me. She said, “You’re quirky, and you like ugly things, and that’s awesome.”

I loved this, and it runs through my mind almost everyday now, and I smile.
And here’s why….
It’s true, I am quirky and I like ugly things...and I’ve fought for 38 years to be okay with that.
To be okay with me.

I’m going to be brutally honest here and I just know that it’s going to resonate, because that’s what honesty always does. You shine the light into the dark corners, and all of the skeletons scatter.

I was an overachiever at a very young age, and the second I started school that was recognized. I was bumped into higher grade levels for academic subjects and I was chosen to mentor my own peers who were struggling because I was patient and had an effortless grasp of the work so I was always ahead of everyone else. Early on I was placed in academic enrichment and was removed from my class several times per month to study more advanced topics.
I loved school.
I loved what it did for my brain.
I loved that I was good at it.
I loved contributing.
I felt like I had an identity where my strengths were celebrated.

I know...horrifying right?
But I don’t know if you know where this is going….

As a result of being singled out I got labeled by my peers. They weren’t endearing terms. They were accusatory and meant to belittle me. In fifth grade it developed into full blown bullying and a new girl took on the role of ring leader in an effort to completely decimate all of my friendships and successes, and destroyed my sense of self worth right along with it.

I never told anyone.

I didn’t even know until far into my grown up years that these actions were classified as bullying.

All I knew was this - who I was and the things I was good at were going to be a source of torment and ridicule and my safest bet would be to get as close to being invisible as possible.

And that’s what I did.
For years.

We moved that year and changed schools but the damage had been done. Starting out in grade 6 my teacher contacted my parents and asked if I had been in special education classes at my previous school because I was so timid he assumed there must be an intellectual delay at play. He was floored when my mom told him that I was a straight A, enrichment student.

Upon entry into grade 9 my assigned guidance counsellor set up an appointment with me to nail down which academic clubs I was going to join. I told him I wouldn’t be joining any of them. Over the next few weeks he urged me to reconsider, and I wouldn’t.
In tenth grade my English teacher asked me to submit a written piece for the English awards. I brushed her off forever, until I finally caved and shoved a messy, hand-written essay into her hands just so she would leave me alone.
By grade 11 I was nearly failing every course and in grade 12 I got kicked out of school.
I almost didn’t graduate.

I’ve had the nagging suspicion for decades that who I am is just too much.
Too much to accept.
Too much to like.
Too much to love.

You too?

I have spent all of my adult years sifting through this message...and listening to this voice...that sounded like my own...believing it was the voice of protection and security for me.

But I’ve been wrong.
And you’re wrong too.

No one else can offer up what I can offer up. Because all of it was hand-chosen and assigned by a Creator whose ways are higher. A God who knows that the place I live and the people I know may need someone like me to give what I’ve got to give.

No one can bring to the table what you can bring to the table. Because when you were created, the mold was broken. You’re the one and only. You choose to hide what you have and who you are...and the world misses out.

Emerging past these walls is hard, but also like getting reacquainted with an old, long lost I who I could remember really loving at one point.

There are many, many unknown reasons why people play small in their lives...why they don’t bring their best to the table. You may not even know that she is outstanding in one area... or he is gifted in another. 
It’s all kept under wraps.

But...can I shout it from the rooftops....?!?!?

It’s. Not. Worth. It.

It’s time to take the jump.
It’s time to risk it.

Because your lifestyle of burying and hiding and playing small...soon becomes your lifestory.

We weren’t created to bury the light.
We were created to bring it.

our deepest fear.jpg

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Gift of the Unexpected Mile Markers

I sat in a job interview this week...and I was prepared, and there was flow, and it was good.
There's no answer yet, I don't know if this is the next fork in the road or not.


I slept well the night before the interview, but the night after my veins were charged with adrenaline and I spent many of the nighttime hours processing all...and anything...and everything.

And my mind flashed back to the last time I sat in an interview that held a lot of weight for me, and the flashes were vivid and tangible.

3 1/2 years ago.
Broken and reeling.
Hoping to get a part time shift, here or there, when I didn't even rightly know what day it might be or how I was going to make a life with my children on my own....
The questions weaved in and out of job-related, to personal attributes, until..."tell us about yourself", crashed like a bomb into that office. It seemed to echo and shake the walls from where I sat and I stared at the two women across from me, perched and ready for my response...and all that came to mind was: my reality, and the parting words from my marriage that would prove to be the hauntings of my loneliest moments for several years moving forward.

"Tell us about yourself" ~ My marriage is broken and my husband is gone.
"Tell us about yourself" ~ Nothing I could ever offer would be anything anyone will ever want."
"Tell us about yourself" ~ I live in my sister's basement.


Although the torture of that moment will always be stamped on my recall, and it seemed to be countless ages of dead air where I inwardly crumbled at a simple question....The reality is, it was a split second pause, I weakly answered the question and shockingly got the job.

It occurred to me, in the looking back, that the meeting this week was dramatically incomparable to the last one...those 3+ years ago...and not because the questions, or the scene were all that different...but I was.

Life's mile marker can pop up at very unexpected times.
And even though I don't know the outcome of the interview this week - I know, and celebrate, the proofs of growth, and healing and grace in my life.
God is at work.

I cannot count the ways my life being completely decimated has changed me ~ for the better.
But in all honesty, the moment you realize you've been slotted for growth it doesn't usually feel sweet.
It feels like pain and confusion.
It feels like darkness and the unknown.
It feels raw, and open, and wounded.

One of the sweetest and hardest whispers you will ever hear is: I love you too much to leave you like this.

This is where He works.
The hard comes first.
The sweet comes next.
It doesn't mean that we suffer at the hands of God.
It means that He can take ashes and spin beauty... if we let Him.

If you're deep in the choppy waters of His work....
And if it feels far more like swimming to exhaustion, and near-drowning, instead of a Divine intervention....
Force your tired soul to hear the whisper....
"I love you too much to leave you like this...."

Be mad at it first.
That's real and necessary.
But know this:
That whisper is drenched in grace and is weighted heavy with extravagant, overflowing care.

When He begins His work - He is faithful to complete it.
And maybe not now, and maybe not tomorrow...maybe 3 years from today...light will crash into your thoughts and you will catch a glimpse of the miracle, and you will know this is your story, and it's unfolding just as it should.

No devastation is out of beauty's reach.
Not mine.
Not yours.
Not ever.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Making Peace With New Year's Resolutions

What if it was time to come to peace?

What if it was time to lay down the weapons that wound....
Cease the hateful words....
Call a truce with the finger pointing....

And what if the person it was time to end the war on....was you?

The ticking of the clock, counting down the hours and minutes towards the midnight strike of December 31 can make my head spin.
Thoughts and ponderings of how I should've done better...
How I could've tried harder....
How I didn't quite make the mark here - and how I didn't even come close over there.

Focus on the lack comes so easily.

Then comes the admonishment ...'You're going to be so much different, and so much more, in the coming year.'

You too?
Yes, that's what I thought.

How about - not this year friends?

Here's what I've been waking up to this past year:

I am drawn to people who wear the essence of who they are like a well-loved sweater.
I am disarmed by those who bring every inch of themselves to the table, and say - without apology - This is me!
I am captivated by the rare one who celebrates their uniqueness - flaws and all - unabashedly, and with abandon....
Aren't you?

In knowing friends and peers and mentors and coworkers, young and old, who don't dull their light because they know its worth...I am given permission to shine mine also.

It takes courage.
And we might have to summon some bravery when we're unsure...and offer ourselves some extravagant grace in those really tough spots. But, as with anything, practice makes progress.

I'm just tired of second guessing.
I'm weary of self-induced battle.
I'm ready to come alongside myself and say...
No more...
It's over...
I have value...
Scars and all...I am enough.
And you are too.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

When Anger Isn't a Feeling ~ But a Season

I came to anger...and I could not deny it any longer.
This is the rite of passage.
It had become damaging...and deny my own path.
It is a depth I needed to go to.

And that knowing...I wrestled and struggled with stepping into this space - walking into anger. It sat ill with me, a wrong fit, although I couldn't take it off.

Am I an authentic, transparent, growing person if I don't allow the journey to unfold as it will?
If I reject my story?
If I deny my truth?


I felt a nudge in my spirit....What is your question? What do you fear?
I answered...truthful and uncomfortable...I've come to anger. And it's real and raw and necessary. But I am afraid....afraid because I can't side-step it any longer, but afraid that if I step into it - You won't be able to find me.

And the response was grace, and it was the One I know....
How could I lose you when I'm going there with you? I will walk with you, just don't let go of my hand.

And when I think I can't know His character, or His good ways any deeper than I already do...when I feel as if I am good, and clear, and strong on who I walk with...He comes into my darkness and blasts light even into this.

Because to be caught in the rhythms of grace means that He flows and moves with us. And where can we go that He is not there?

I forget that grace means favour unmerited, unearned. I forget that He doesn't just offer love, but He IS love.

My human walk is not predictable, tidy or easy. I run the entire gamut of emotions, and feelings, and I still want to edit the ugly, scary and uncomfortable ones out. But I can only run so long, deny so long, put up a front so long...and then I am soul weary, spent, and empty...and I am anxious to admit that the real me is anything but perfect.

And so many would, could, and do...turn away, check out and sprint in the opposite direction when the 'not perfect' comes out. Things get tough, messy, hard...and the buzzer rings: GAME OVER.

But I'm caught in the rhythms of grace - favour unearned.
And these rhythms play out through the entire song of my life - and it's not a one-dimensional, elementary plunking out of Chopsticks. It's a multi-layered, complicated masterpiece, and the rhythms of grace flow in and through the complex, the tricky, the complicated.
And the Composer - the giver of grace - He performs masterfully - ALWAYS.

I'm never too complicated of a piece for Him. My layers are not too tricky. He does not tire of the work it takes to love me and walk with me.

So I came to anger.
And I faced it, and stepped into it.
And it's hard.
And I'm not alone, or lost, or forgotten.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Don't Skip the Dark

I don't know much about a lot of things lately.'s a tough season.

And writing tough season, means something to me, but maybe it's a nice and neat packaged statement to the reader. Truth be told though, my life is anything but nice, and neat, and packaged right now.
It's not pretty at all.

The bottom falls out at many different intervals in life, in many different ways it seems. It's not at the same time of year, it's likely not the same problem as last time, and it's not always expected...sometimes it's entirely shocking.

I didn't see this go-round coming.
I thought I was doing okay.

I've been making good choices, and I've been practicing gratitude. I've been turning away from negativity and I've been taking chances and risks to move closer to the life I want for myself. It would appear that, on paper, I've been doing...all of the right things.
And if there's anything I'm a sucker for, it's a do-gooder checklist.
A checklist is right up there with Disneyworld and a girls spa day for my perfectionist personality.
Go ahead and tell me there are 10 choices/tasks/responsibilities to fulfill and I can expect a predetermined outcome....and I'm ALL IN.

I'm a rule follower, a list maker, a measurable outcomes gal.
I want to know what I have to do to feel secure in expecting a good life.
The tricky part about being wired this way is that life, in all of its plot twists, pivots and cliffhanger question marks is anything but predictable.

I'm struggling with it.
That's the honest truth.

I am weary and a little ravaged from the last big bungee jump that life kind of pushed me into.
I sort of feel like I had only merely begun the new ascent from that free fall...and yet...the rearrangement has started again.

And I've cried about it.
And I've been really angry about it.
And I've toyed with bitterness, wondering if maybe I skipped that last time and maybe it wasn't to be skipped.
Lots of sleepless hours in the dark nights, lots of physical, emotional and spiritual unrest...

And even in the real and authentic place of hurt, and question, and inescapable why - I am searching for the 5 steps that I can take to GET OUT of this uncomfortable, and bleak, and dark stop on the journey to wherever I'm headed.
I don't want THIS to be part of it.
I want to wrap it up and seal it shut and dispose of it.
Because I see it as inconvenient and an interruption...and I don't want to be weighed down with... being human.
Let me skip it....let me deny it.

Because we don't talk very often about how it's brave to admit the valley's. 
We don't shout about the courage it takes to face the night. 
We don't celebrate stopping. 
We don't cheer on the weary traveler who chooses

The problem with rushing through the darkest days is that you also rush through any growth or healing or strength that can be gained from staying in them.
Just as night falls so we can regenerate and rest and be still. And just like any expert will tell you that forgoing sleep in the dark hours is detrimental to our health and well being...
So the dark comes in our lives....urging us to rest and be still. And the Expert urges us to stay there awhile, notice the landscape and the stars...for this place is valid and has worth also.
And skipping it leaves us less, empty, jittery...not quite ready for what's next.

This time I'm going to listen.
I'm not going to shrug it off and push it down.
I'm not going to fool myself into believing that only the sun-filled seasons have value.
I'm going to stop and listen and learn.
I know the sun will rise again...but I'm not going to be so bold to assume that I can rush it to bend to my watch. I'm going to respect it and be thankful for rest, and look at some stars, and be restored...
And then I can be truly thankful when the dawn cracks through the night once again, and I can carry on.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Always Choose Kindness

In the great many things you look forward to as a mother, hearing the words..."she's my new step-mom" not one of those things.

I do not believe that anyone sets out in a marriage expecting, truly, that one day it will end. I also cannot believe that any mother assumes that one day her young children will split their time between two households, two lives...and have many experiences, adventures and memories as they grow, with their other family.

Even when you've come to acceptance with what is.
Even when you've found peace and healing from within the collection of things that got broken.
And you like your life...
There are certain terms, certain new milestones and certain recurring scenarios that are capable of delivering a shock to your system.
Even now.
There's a lot of new territory to cover.

MY choices in life, the pursuits of my heart, largely focus on running well - this race that has been set before me. What is before me in this season?
My children.
They are glorious in their yet, still, newness to this Earth. Imagine...only having been around for 5, or 7 1/2 years? Still so many discoveries happening, still a conveyor belt of new sights, and words, and sounds. Still so much innocence and purity and joy.
These things I work to protect. And conserve. And nurture.
These little souls - they're people. Their life, right now...what they see, hear and's all part of the framework of who they're becoming.
It all...counts.

Hear me when I say - I love you my friends for loving ME. I love you for being protective and watchful of ME. These gifts of friendship and advocacy...the showing up in the dark and never leaving...ever. These are all parts of MY STORY and why I'm really, really okay today, right now.

Now....hear me when I say - my kids love their dad, and they love the family he has chosen. And part of preserving their childhood and protecting their beautiful little to LET THEM love their dad and his new family. I am thankful that they speak these feelings, these words of affection, openly and without strained pause in my home. I am thankful that they have no idea at 5 and 7 what my journey has been, and that they are unabashedly loving who they want to love - wild and free. As children should.
My load is not theirs to carry.

This life that has been set before me is not what I ever imagined. EVER.
And there is a great deal of work, and prayer, and then some more work that is required to get to 'okay'.

BUT...back the depths of brokenness...the wise words of a woman, I'd met just months prior, kept fighting, repeatedly, through all the noise, PUSHING to the forefront:

"Always choose kindness, always choose forgiveness.
Don't choose to hold onto anger.
Kindness disarms.
Anger pushes away.
Choose kindness."

When my children open their hearts and their mouths and share their joys and their happenings and...their life with me.
I want them to see kindness...
Not the painted on variety to try to sell something, through gritted teeth, that I don't believe in.
The kindness that comes from a deep peace in my soul and knowing the love that always wins. And that soul is mine and that soul has experienced forgiveness far too many times to ever be able to deny it to someone else.

There is strength for today.
There is bright hope for tomorrow.
These blessings...they're all mine, with ten thousand beside.