Friday, November 25, 2011

Just Do It

For about a year, I had felt like I should be getting to know one of my neighbours. The thought, "You should make an effort to befriend her" and "You should do something nice for her" kept coming to my mind. No matter what excuses my mind came up with, I still felt, deep down, like I should be making an effort to get to know this particular neighbour.

Well, a year went by. A year. I put it off and delayed it and kept making those "logical" excuses for why I shouldn't bother. Here are some of them:

  • I'm sure I'll randomly run into her some time in the near future. (This didn't happen.) 
  • It's too late now. 
  • I missed my chance. 
  • If I was going to do something, I should have done it months ago. Now it doesn't matter.
  • (Both last winter and this fall): It's cold now, and people aren't outside much anymore - I won't run into her.
  • (When it was warmer): She's busy talking with someone, so I can't wait around to talk to her...that would be awkward.
  • (She had a baby): I could bring her a meal, but what if they are vegetarian? What if they have food allergies that I don't know about? I don't know what they like!

Once I figured I had missed my chance and it was too late, it became easier and easier to put it out of my mind and think about it less often. 

Then, last week, I realized that since we will be moving in the near future, I may never ever make that connection. The finality of that thought finally drove me to action.

I went to her house and talked with her, and made that connection. We had a great chat, and have purposed to get together again in the near future.

I felt lighter, as though a little burden that had been pressing upon my shoulders was finally lifted. I did what had been impressed upon me to do for a year. 

I'm telling you this because if you ever feel that same feeling - like you should make an effort to get to know someone, or that you should do [this] or [that]- don't wait as long as I did. Procrastinating and trying to justify not doing something (because it would pull you out of your comfort zone) won't benefit you one bit. The longer you put it off for, the harder it is to eventually motivate yourself to action.

Sometimes opportunities (that, who knows, could change our lives in one way or another) pass us by, and we don't have the luxury of taking the opportunity up at a later date. Often, however, those opportunities are still there, and while the longer we wait, the more difficult it is to take action, it's not impossible to take action. Often, it's not too late. Often, we haven't actually missed our chance. 

Don't sit there and formulate excuses for not doing what you know you should be doing. Just do it. After all, who knows how you could impact the lives of others by taking the action you know you should take? Who knows what kinds of doors could be opened, what kinds of opportunities await, or what kinds of changes or effects certain connections, relationships or actions could create?

Just do it. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Personal Gift

Have you ever read, or heard of, the book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge?

Captivating was recommended to me as a helpful book to read when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I read the book four years ago, and I want to share with you a consequent experience I had relating to the book.

For those of you who haven’t read it, or if you have and need a refresher, Captivating stresses the value of a woman’s heart, the things that a woman needs and thus, the type of relationship she has with God.

I’m going to take you straight to pages 116-118, where Stasi writes about an experience she had:

At this point in the book, the authors are describing a woman’s desire to be romanced. Accordingly, our relationships with God often take that sort of position—God desires to show His love to those He loves, just as a woman would be romanced by her lover.

One day, Stasi’s husband John had experienced God’s personal, intimate love for him while he was on a beach. He had the privilege of watching the rare sight of a beautiful whale blowing water out of its blowhole, and to John, this was a special experience of God’s love for him personally.

After John had told Stasi about what he saw, Stasi asked God for the same thing. She said, “God, I want you to show me a whale, too.” She ended up walking the beach herself, but instead of seeing a whale, she saw a huge expanse of beach covered with starfish—she had never seen anything in nature like it before. She knew that was God’s personal gift to her.

The book goes on to explain that as God loves each of us so much, on a very personal level, we can open our hearts to “hear His whispers and receive His kisses.”

Well, what do you think I did after reading that section? At that time in my life, I desperately needed reassurance from God that He did in fact love me enough to take the time to give me my own gift, and I desperately needed to feel as important to God as these two well-known authors clearly were. I figured, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and if the authors are right, then I should be able to get my own gift from God. Perhaps this was a little selfish and testy of me, but given my state of mind at the time, I am not surprised that I asked God for my own gift.

I don’t remember how many days later, but shortly after reading that section of the book, on a dark, cold Saturday night, I spent my evening grocery shopping (probably the best way to spend a Saturday night, right? Please note my sarcasm here).

When I was driving home and pulled onto my street, my headlights caught some movement. At first, I thought it was a dog, but when I looked again, I realized this animal was way bigger than a dog—it was a buck—a full-grown male deer, complete with a huge set of antlers. I had never seen anything like it before.

I slowly followed it down my street. He was casually galloping along the side of the road until he got to an adjoining cul-de-sac, which he turned down. He didn’t really seem scared; I think he could have run much faster than he did. I kept following him until I watched him make his way up someone’s driveway and past the garage into the backyard. The buck’s antlers reached up to the roof of the garage he ran past.

To see something so majestic, so wonderful and so rare in the middle of a street, running into someone’s backyard was very, very awesome. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Yes, I do live across the street from a ravine; the houses across the street from me, and on that cul-de-sac, back onto a nice ravine where perhaps many deer live. I have not, however, ever seen a deer on my street (apart from this incident) in the five years I’ve lived here. Also, I have never seen a buck before in my life. 

When I have seen deer out in the wild, I’ve only ever seen a group of does (or at least, young deer without antlers). Even hunters who are specifically in a deer-riddled area, watching and waiting for that prize buck with majestic antlers adorning its head may wait for days and never see one, let alone hunt one down. This deer I saw was rare enough of a gem to me that it really impacted me, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was my gift from the One Who loves me so dearly. Now, whenever I see a deer out in the wild, I’m reminded of that fantastic buck and of God’s love for me on a very personal level. That gift was, as Stasi calls it, “an intimate gift from an intimate God.”

Stasi finishes that section with, “He has many for you as well.”

I would never, ever share this story about what God did for me if I wasn’t certain that He would do the same for you. Maybe He already has, many times.

Of course I know that God loves me. I would have believed that even if I had never encountered that buck. I believed it before, and I still believe it. God didn’t need to prove His love for me by providing that gift from nature any more than my friends or family would ever need to prove their love for me by giving me presents—I know love without physical gifts.

Even though we don't need gifts to know love, aren't gifts still fun to receive? Aren't gifts fun to give to the ones we love? Don't actions like the giving/receiving of gifts make relationships sweeter? God feels the same way!

What's more, I believe is that sometimes in life, our hearts may be fragile, our emotions may be unstable or our situations may have placed us in a precarious position. For whatever reason, we may just need to be shown, in our own personal, intimate way, just how much God loves us. We may just need something tangible, in our world, to give us that boost we need to grow strong again—to heal our hearts. Sometimes we need something to hold onto. Please be comforted that God knows what you need and He is willing to give.

If you’ve never done so, I encourage you open your own heart and see what kinds of ways that God can show His own intimate, personal love for you in a beautiful and impactful way. He knows when you will need them and why. As Stasi wrote in Captivating, He has many gifts especially crafted for you, ready and waiting to bestow on you, too. Just ask and be open to receiving them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Impact of Remembering

When I was at the grocery store last night, and a very sweet elderly man very carefully pinned a poppy on my coat lapel, I started to think about Remembrance Day. Very quickly, I started reciting “In Flanders Fields” in my mind. I still remember an elementary school teacher very painstakingly (and patiently) teaching us the poem so that we could recite it for a Remembrance Day assembly. I’ve never forgotten the poem, thanks to that teacher.

The whole poem is beautiful and moving, but the lines that jumped out at me last night were:

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep…

[We shall not sleep]

How impactful is that? As a kid, I never truly understood the significance of those lines. I just remember our teacher coaching us to say, "The torch; be yours to hold it high" loudly and with gusto. Now, those somewhat haunting lines to me serve as a commission, a decree or a perhaps even desperate demand to not only remember but also act.

Of course we all know the purpose of Remembrance Day: to remember that many, many, many people have fought for the freedom many of us were born into today. We must remember, lest we forget, and forget at what cost?

The more I pondered Remembrance Day and the above excerpt from John McRae’s poem, however, the more that commission to act impressed itself on me:

All the people who fought for our freedom have done their part; now, the torch is ours to hold high.

In terms of war and freedom, we must remember the past so that we can perpetuate our victories now and into the future, until we are ready to pass the torch to the next generation. We are the now generation; we are the ones responsible now for carrying forward our ancestors’ dreams and successes and fights; we are the ones responsible now for preparing the way for the next generation’s life on this earth. This commission is much broader than just war and freedom, though: this does not just have to apply to politics. What about society, culture, philanthropy, technology and the environment?

What can we do—what are we doing right now—for future generations?

“In Flanders Fields” is certainly a strong and passionate decree for the people of today to remember the past in order to impact the future.

Friday, November 4, 2011


How do you feel about change? Do you welcome it, or do you resist it?

Do you rearrange your living room every few months, or has it stayed the same for years? How many different hairstyles or hair colours have you had in the last five years? Would you be happy working for the same company until you retire, or do you feel the itch to do something new every so often?

The more I think about “change,” the more I realize how complex a word “change” really is. There is, after all, positive and negative change, major and minor change, permanent and temporary change, and several other types and variations in between.

There are two aspects of change that intrigue me the most, and the first is the way it makes me feel. When something changes, it feels foreign, different and far from ordinary. It causes me to feel different from my usual self—like I’ve distanced my mind from my actions, or my perspective from my body, or something like that. When things change, sometimes I don’t feel like “me”; psychological gravity has a lesser effect on me; I don’t feel quite as grounded as usual.

Here’s an example: Joel and I have put our house up for sale. That simple action will produce so many changes that to comprehend them all at once is overwhelming. Some of these changes have already made me feel a little “different” just being at home. Other changes I know are imminent, and I’m a little nervous about how they will make me feel when they happen.

Our house feels different because I’ve staged it to sell by removing all personal effects such as knick knacks and framed photos. Clutter now lives in cupboards, and our dog now temporarily lives at my in-laws.

At some point in the near future, we will be living in a different house.

At first, I probably won’t feel at “home” there. The layout will be different, and our things will be in different places.

I will be sleeping in a different room, and showering in a different bathroom.

The house will have its own different smell and will produce different “house sounds” like certain creaks when you walk across certain sections of floor.

I will be driving a new route to all the places I go; some places will be closer, and others will be further away.

All the nuances of living in a certain house will be completely changed; all the little details that I don’t ever notice will become extremely noticeable because of their difference from my norm.

So much of myself is entwined in my home, for “home is where the heart is.” I will be uprooting my heart to plant it elsewhere. Of course I will be taking the memories of the years I spent in our house with me wherever I go, but they will always play themselves out in my mind in this house. Moreover, I will be entrusting my home of five years to another family, hoping and praying that they are able to make this a real home for themselves, enjoying and appreciating and loving it like I have.

I like the idea of change, especially if I know it’s ultimately for the better. Change can be refreshing, but adjusting can be clumsy and challenging. The initial period of “newness” can be awkward, making you feel as though you’re in a different country instead of safe in your familiar homeland.

Change feels strange.

When something changes, everything feels strange, but thankfully, that feeling only exists for a little while. Familiarity slowly overcomes foreignness, and eventually, to move away from that newly-found familiarity would denote another change.

This brings me to the second aspect of change that baffles me: Sometimes I wonder at the capacity of human beings to adjust and adapt to the countless changes of a lifetime. As our bodies grow and eventually start to age, we are continuously met with changes and are faced with decisions. Our relationships grow and develop, and life happens, and we are met with more changes that feel strange at first. We live in different houses, experience different financial situations, work at different jobs, become part of different communities of people, are blessed with life and suffer death. Isn’t it amazing that for the most part, we are able to take change and transform it into familiarity? Sure, some adjustments take more time and effort than others, and some we may never get used to, but generally speaking, we are resilient creations that can eventually get used to situations that have changed—and maybe even get used to “change” itself.

Do we grow accustomed to difference because it’s the only way to survive (and humans were created with a will to survive)? In other words, do we adjust to change because we have a survival instinct? What about positive change? We still have to go through an adjustment period even when we experience a change for the good, right? So regardless of the type of change, generally speaking, we adapt, adjust, endure a period of awkwardness and then carry on—move on—continue on through life, eventually getting used to the new state we’re in? Take all of those questions and throw in the fact that as our environment and circumstances change around us, we ourselves also change, compounding the effects of difference in our lives! With all of this change, how do we remain stable and balanced? It's a wonder, isn't it?

I wonder if humans are able to adapt so well because of the fact that there is something in this dynamic universe that always promises to remain the same: God, His promises and His infinite love for His adaptable creations. The more I change and adapt to changes, the more I realize how solid and unchanging He is; no matter how much life changes around me, I have a constant and unchanging God at the center, Who is familiarity, Who is home and Who is light, even when nothing else is.