These Are a Few of My Favourite Things…

when the dog bites. when the bee stings. when I’m feeling sad. I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel so bad…

Come on. That song was running through your head too when you read the title of this post. Right?

It’s May 29 Just shy of 6 months into this amazing year. 2013, where have you been all my life?

My goal for the 12 months of this year was to come up with ONE THOUSAND gifts. Small things. Big things. Medium things. ANY things that I feel are/were a gift from God that so often go unnoticed or un-thanked. (un-thanked?)

I’m telling you. This has been absolutely life-changing.

It started with my counsellor Suzie, who I should probably get in touch with. She told me in the fall to start keeping a diary of sorts of the top-five best things that happen to me every single day. Even if all it said five times was “I’m breathing today”. Write it down, she said. So I started to write. And somedays, five just aint enough, baby.

Then Linds gave me a book for a belated birthday present. It’s called One Thousand Gifts (surprise surprise). It pushed me even farther. I thought that if I can easily (most days, not all) come up with five things every single day, then why not one thousand for the whole year?

I was sitting in Starbucks having some much-needed me time. I thought about asking the barista for a paper and pen, because once the idea hit me I was anxious to start to writing my list. But then I took out my trusty old iPhone. I use my “notes” app often for grocery stuff and to-do items and lists of baby names , so it made sense to also start a Gifts list. And that’s exactly what I did. My list started off slowly with some mention about a Christmas tree and my parents. But then it started to grow and change and become this thing with which I can’t go through a single day without acknowledging. It’s so awesome.

I love my list. I read it all the time. Sometimes, though not often, I share things on that list as a way to encourage other people.

It’s changed my life.

I am more thankful, more aware of small things, more open to seeing trying times as a way to find beauty in brokenness. I am whole-er than I was 6 months ago.

I’ve contemplated sharing all 500 (so far) things with you guys. But that would take up a lot of “space” in this funny, mind-blowing place we call the ‘net. Maybe closer to the end of this year I will share some with you.

If I could encourage you to start a list too, you might also like it a lot.

When bad things happen in this life, it’s so easy to focus on the negative and the feeling of hopelessness is extremely overwhelming, isn’t it? But when tragedies hit, I like to remember the motto, “Look for the helpers”. There IS goodness and beauty left in this world. We just need to pray that our eyes are opened to it.

~C

 

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Takin’ Care of Business (also known as the HUGE-update-after-3-months-of-silence-post)

It’s where I’ve been. In case you’ve been wondering. So many times these past few months I’ve intended to write, only to shrink back slowly and realize I would only be doing it because I felt I had to. Not because I wanted to.

Today, I want to write. Today I’m feeling it; this need to send a few thoughts, a few lines, a few reveries out into the world. If for nothing else, to have something small to come back to and read this time next year.

The fall for me was a blur of activities and busyness and a sense of purpose I can’t quite describe. My new job kicked off (which I can’t believe I haven’t written about more), I directed for the second year the children’s production at my church, and started healing.

When I look back on 2012, I will probably remember the painfully gradual closing of the door which was my preschool-teaching career. I thought my last day in that tiny classroom would never come. But it did. Thank God. And then I will remember my dream-summer in Europe where I travelled to 7 countries in 10 weeks and had the time and space to start dreaming again; to start figuring out who I am.

2013 has been amazing so far.

Amazing.

I’m finding myself again.

Some days I feel, dare I say, too blessed. If it’s even possible. Mom told me on the phone last week that she often looks at a picture of me from when I was in preschool, and she had, for years, wondered where that little girl had gone. Now she believes I am coming back. And I believe I am coming back. It hasn’t been perfect of course, for life never is, but it’s been pretty darn close.

5 months ago I started a new job working for Bethesda. For years my friends in Abbotsford had been telling me that I should work for this company, coming alongside and caring for people with special needs. I ignored it. Completely. Thought it wasn’t for me, that I couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t do it. But God finally got my attention last year, and a HUGE door in my life opened up. And now? I can’t imagine my life without these people, this new family that is being created and has been prepared for me. I am falling in love with precious individuals who the world calls broken but who are teaching me how to live, how to love, how to simply BE.

They are beautiful.

So there’s that. A huge life change. A new career. The steepest professional learning curve I’ve ever been on in my life. All totally worth it.

Then there’s the counselling. Dear Lord, the counselling. Why it pays off to spend half your paycheque crying in a strangers office is beyond me, but it somehow works. Miraculously well. In a way it’s like I’d been living with this giant wound, which I had covered up, tried to hide in layers of bandages which I thought were helping. And then this lady came along and started unravelling those bandages layer by layer. And parts of my skin were coming off with them, and the wound was being exposed. And then came the painful part of pouring the anti-septic into that dark place…that’s where I was at just after Christmas. Friends, it hurt. But it felt good at the same time…if that makes any sense. I was healing and I knew it. I was getting the attention I needed, and the help was coming from someone with decades of experience, compassion, and a kind of kindred spirit that is rare and hard to find.

I’ve always been a procrastinator, and one of those people who doesn’t do well under pressure…if I was a contestant on the Biggest Loser, I’d vote myself off after one day of training with Jillian, Bob, or Dolvette. I hate being yelled at and pushed. And as silly as this can be, it’s almost like the more people want me to do something, or the more I know something has to be done, the less I want to do it. It doesn’t make sense but it’s true.

But this year I have felt myself changing. I’m growing up a lot. It’s getting easier and easier to take care of business. I used to put off oil changes till the last second, had a hard time returning phone calls, ran from the hard things in life like going for job interviews, and wanted to hide away every tax season. It feels good to start owning up to those responsibilities. Good to know I can handle these things. God is with me, and I have an army of family and friends behind me who are cheering me on every step of the way.

I’m a lucky girl.

And I think I am ready to start writing again. Slowly but surely.

Every single night before bed I write in a little pink journal. I write down my top 5 best moments of the day; gifts from God that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. So I haven’t been completely out of touch with the words that so easily pour from my soul, but I have missed this space.

But for now, no more words. Only pictures.

imageimageimageimageimageimage

Lots of babies. Lots of smiles. Lots of memories. Lots of pure, unadulterated joy.

Overflowing joy. Enjoying life to the fullest.

And that, friends, is where I’ve been.

~C

Beauty in the Breakdown

It’s been quiet around here, I know. Lots has been on my heart, on my mind, trapped in my soul. And for the first time in a long time, writing hasn’t been my go-to outlet. And sometimes that’s okay.

Today I had a real, nasty, ugly, loud, breakdown. It’s wasn’t pretty friends. I caught the end of it on photobooth, a video I pray no one has to see of me. It was almost like therapy though; I talked and cried and vented and sobbed, and all the while looking into the compassionate face of…well, me. I was my own first friend. I know me. I love me. I understand me. I needed to talk badly.

But what I was wishing for more than anything else in this whole entire world was for someone to crawl into my bed behind me, hold me, and listen. No words were necessary. I just needed to be held tightly. Securely.

Because I have been feeling insecure.

There have been so many changes lately. Changes in my own personal life and changes in the lives of those I am closest to. Babies have born, new jobs have begun, relationships have ended, dreams have died and dreams have come true. I saw my dad last week for a few hours which is only the second time in 7 years we have been together. It brought up feelings in me that I have yet to acknowledge.

There is no one to blame for my insecurities in life. We all have them, this I know. But mine are really haunting me these days, and I am starting to feel the weight of them in my daily life. My biggest challenge in this life by far is a fear of abandonment.

 It’s no joke, no laughing matter. While many of you never question the love of those around you (and you are truly blessed, by the way), being scared of not being good enough is extremely real to me. I don’t want to play you my sad song here and air out my dirty laundry online, but for the sake of being real here, I am going to be honest about it…I had two dads leave me when I was little. Not one, two. And then later in life, I had two best friends leave me, which really broke me. Maybe to you that seems a lot less significant than parents leaving, but it hurt almost as bad. One was very recent too. She had her reasons, of course, but after years and years (and years and years) of assuring me she wouldn’t leave me, I started to believe her. Trust her. Let myself be real with her. And then one day, simple as that, she broke up with me. Left me. Abandoned me. And here we go again.

I’ve held it together pretty well this year, but things are starting to catch up to me. I’m not trusting like I used to. Not finding it very easy to let myself be real. I am scared a lot. Scared of not being perfect, scared of being left behind or let go of. So I’ve been pushing people away. Trying to leave them before they can leave me. It’s not going over very well.

So I need to cling to God. The one person who says he will never leave me. So much easier said than done. But I am trying.

 I had a breakdown today. A hard, loud, ugly cry. But I once heard that the harder you cry, the deeper the healing that takes place. I pray that is true of my heart today, because I am really looking forward to seeing what God is going to do with this beautiful mess of mine.

There is beauty in the breakdown. I don’t know yet what it is going to look like, but I know it’s going to be good.

~C

PS I am going back to counselling, peeps. You better believe it.

 

Travel-Back Tuesdays: The Kenya Files (Part 1)

Have I mentioned yet that I now live in Chilliwack? It’s not very complicated: I needed a place to live and Nikki told me to live with her. End of story. It’s working out perfectly, and it’s exactly where I need to be right now. I am not only wanted here, but I am also needed, and that’s a great place to be.

I’ve made a lot of moves in the last 10 years…like, a LOT. And it always seems that when that last box is unpacked, I forget about the little things that need to be organized. This time, though, I had the time and opportunity to go through some badly neglected tupperware bins and baskets. And I came across one of thee most precious possessions I own, which I had completely thought I had lost many moons ago…3 CD’s from my sacred time spent in Kenya…

Digital cameras WERE around back then (in 2005), but they weren’t as common and I didn’t know many people who were good enough with the technology to transfer files to disc and stuff. Except for my Kenyan BFF. I wrote about him a LONG time ago in this post. He pretty much gets all the credit for these pictures and memories, because without him it would all have been lost a long time ago.

So without further ado…The Kenya Files

******************************************************************

Mombasa, Kenya, 2005

I was 19 years old the first time I felt compelled to leave the comforts of Canada and jet-set across the ocean to a 3rd world continent. It shocked me, to be honest, the first time I felt that “call” to go to Africa, because for many years prior I had been quite reluctant to consider missions a part of my future. I had been dating this guy who so badly wanted to see the world and be a missionary…and I? Well, I just didn’t. It’s ultimately what made us part ways in the end. Not long after that break-up (which was in 2004), I went to Missions Fest Vancouver with a few girlfriends, and we were determined to watch the African Children’s Choir perform on the Saturday afternoon. My friends wanted to go because they all had a heart for Africa. I wanted to go because I have a heart for children…and that’s pretty much all I was expecting to get out of the deal.

BUT

with that first resounding drumbeat, and that first haunting, bone-chilling tribal call, my heart was forever changed. I imagine it might be similar to a mother laying on a cold examination table hearing their unborn child’s heart beating for the first time. You’re changed forever. And I was changed forever.

Those little kids danced their hearts out, and I cried mine out. My friend RJ reached out across the girls separating us, put her hand on my arm, and whispered with such faith, such confidence, “Christina Marand, you are going there one day”.

Did I dare believe her? Could that really be the direction my life was heading? I continued to let those beautiful songs wash over me as I cried and contemplated what RJ had just spoken over my life…and as a flame of excitement licked the inside of my stomach, a smile spread rapidly across my face.

Africa…

Oh, my Africa.

She was right, you know. I was going there one day. One day soon. Exactly 17 months later, in fact.

Those 17 months didn’t come easily though. I went through so many ups and downs that I honestly lost count….doors opened for Africa, and doors closed. Opportunities came and went faster than I could keep up with, and quite honestly, I felt ready to quit more than a few times. I think it was a test of faith though, and a way to prove to myself and the people who doubted I could do this that it was what I truly wanted.

But I followed my heart.

And it led me straight to a man named Ezra who would ultimately end up being the person who made this all happen. Once that piece of the puzzle was in place, everything else seemed to follow suit.

In January of 2005, I went out for lunch to Red Robin with Ezra and his wife to talk business. I shared my heart for Africa, he shared both his upbringing in Kenya and his ability to get me there safely. The next 5 months went quickly as I applied for a passport, got a zillion immunizations, raised support, and allowed myself to dream big about what this was all about. It was the most thrilling time in my life.

My flight was set for the end of June. Word of Life International in Mombasa, Kenya was prepared at that point for my arrival and stay on their beautiful compound, and I had tied up pretty much every loose end there was to tie. I was ready and anxious to finally be there. I wanted Africa. Bad.

So it was of course incredibly disappointing to learn that the flight we had booked fell through. I’m still not sure of the exact details why, but I do remember sitting in Ezzy’s office crying like a baby, convinced it was all over.

Until later that day, when a friend jumped into my car, bound and determined to get me to Africa ASAP. We drove all day from travel agency to travel agency, hearing the same thing over and over…”sorry no flights available for these dates, and certainly no flights in your price range”. My heart was pretty much broken.

Until about 4pm that afternoon, which I believe was a Tuesday, when we arrived at the last possible travel agency in Langley. My friend walked in with her head held high. I, on the other hand, walked in defeated. Hopeless. Done. Which is why it was a great shock to hear that travel agent say, “when did you say you could leave again?”, at which point I replied without a smidgen of sarcasm, “tomorrow”. Seconds later I hear the words, “okay, we can get you out of here tomorrow morning.”

The room was spinning. I felt unable to make any decisions. But I did. I decided to go.

It was by far the biggest, highest, longest leap of faith I have ever, ever taken in my life. It was thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.

I was 20 years old and I was going to Africa all by myself.

The very next morning I said goodbye to my family and friends and I got on a plane and flew from Vancouver to Calgary, Calgary to Toronto, Toronto to Paris, Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Nairobi to Mombasa. If you think that’s a joke, it’s absolutely not. There’s a darn good reason that flight was so affordable. I paid for it in time and weariness. 3 entire days later I got off that plane and I had arrived.

I, in so very many ways, was home for the first time ever.

A few pictures to satisfy you for now, but this is only part 1 of who-knows-how many Kenya Files to come. My homesick heart can only handle so much at one time, you know.

My very first Africa-sighting. One of the most profound moments of my life.

The very first home I stayed in at Word of Life Nairobi. The next day I flew to my home base in Mombasa.

On the way from the WOL Nairobi to the airport.

My first dance party at Mrima Primary, week 1

Best buds

Ambrose and Lois. Two WOL compound faves.

So this is it for Part 1. I have so so SO much more to share with you, but we’re taking it slow here.

Thanks for tuning in, my friends!

~C



Travel-Back Tuesdays: Hawaiian Style!

October, 2007…

Me, Eli(ja), and Jackson at the Honolulu International Airport.

So, at the age of 23, I pretty much hit the Nanny Diaries jackpot…and was asked by my sweet friend Holly if I would accompany her family on an all-expenses paid vacation to Oahu. Um….did I EVEN need to think about it twice?

But here’s the thing…earlier that year I had spent a couple of months in South Africa, and loved it SO much that my host family there and I decided it would be best to come spend 6 months or so serving from October of 2007 until February, 2008. Holly invited me to Hawaii for the beginning of October…so it was cutting it pretty close to say yes to both, but this adrenaline-loving, adventure-seeking girl just couldn’t say no to either amazing opportunity.

I spent 10 days in Hawaii, came home for FOUR, and then returned to Africa. It was crazy. And awesome. And fun. And I will never, ever forget that.

 Hawaii was magical for me. I had just discovered Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”, and it was pretty much my anthem on this trip. I played it non-stop from my iPod shuffle (which, by the way, I accidentally washed that week in the laundry…but it still worked!) and seriously felt like I was living in some kind of dreamland.

We rented a Dodge Caravan and I was given the freedom to explore the island. I had a full day (or two, maybe) off to just do my thing, without the kids in tow. We stayed in a rental cottage just mere steps away from a semi-private beach. The house came with all the baby equipment, including a jogging stroller, so we had some really sweet times jogging little Eli through the sand in the early mornings.

 Holly, Erick, and I got along great. Not that we hadn’t in the past, but you never really know what’s going to happen on a long-ish holiday across the Pacific with two VERY young kids (6 months and 2.5 years). We had a lot of fun together, though, and the kids were both troopers. Because of their ages, we didn’t really do anything too “touristy”, like Pearl Harbour or luau’s or deep sea diving, but that suited us all just fine. We spent lots of time in Waikiki and took amazing drives around the island, stopping for shave ice and occasionally stepping into gloriously air-conditioned malls for a break from the heat. Plus, with a private pool in your HOUSE, and a semi-private beach outside your front door, who really needs to leave, anyways!

 On one of my day’s off, I left the mini-van with the fam and hopped a city bus from Kailua to Honolulu, with just my backpack full of books and water and my trusty camera, of course. The first thing I did was visit the International Market Place, which was by far the most colourful, wonderful market I have ever been to.

I really badly miss that long, long hair of mine.

One of my favourite days in Hawaii was the day we stumbled upon Turtle Beach Resort. I don’t really remember why we were there that day, but I am fairly sure it was mostly an accident that we found this place. Once we saw it, though, there was no turning back. We spent the day feeling like royalty, sipping Pina Colada’s and watching both surfer dudes and Jack digging in the sand. It was a great day.

 It’s never been a goal of mine to be “rich” one day, but honestly, if I had the money down the road, I would definitely want to bless someone by taking them on a trip the way these guys blessed me. I know that I technically went along to help them, but it seriously didn’t feel like work. It just felt…right. Like a dream come true. And I hope one day I can do that for someone, too.

Well open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and damn you’re free
Look into your heart and you will find love love love love

Listen to the music of the moment people dance and sing
We’re just one big family
And it’s our God-forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved loved

 I’ve said it about nearly every single place I have ever been to, and I will say it again…

I’m going back there one day. I am.

~C

PS Holly and Erick, if you are reading this, thanks again from the most grateful girl ever! Miss you 4 very much!

blühen: to bloom

When we were in California in March, we spent our last day cruising around in the Camry (haha, because we’re just that cool) checking out the mansions in Bel Air and Beverly Hills. And although the highlight of that Cali trip for me was definitely Disneyland (and I can think of 2 little girls who will agree with me), for Nikki, that day we spent trespassing and meeting random owners of those little giant pieces of heaven was her favourite day. We stared up in wonder at real-life mansions…HUGE houses with elevators and “staff” and BMW’s in the pull-through driveways and gates and video-surveillance systems. It was overwhelming, really. I can’t even begin to imagine living in such a house.

We’ll call this one…Gwen Stefani’s house.

While those places were very nice and would probably be a blast to live in, I would take one of these places in a heartbeat over a mansion any day. These are garden homes near the pool I swim in here in Bremerhaven. People aren’t technically supposed to live in them, but they do anyways. If I thought my cottage was cute, it was only because I hadn’t seen these yet!

Welcome to a modern day Garden of Eden…

Compared to the size of the dog, you can really see how tiny these houses are. If you can even call them houses!

(this one is my favourite)

It would be like living in a storybook, wouldn’t it? And of course, the icing on the cake, a little community garage sale going on at the entrance to the cottages…there was music playing and children laughing, and if I had a friend there with me I would have insisted on being pinched to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

When I think of these little homes compared with the mansions of Bel Air, one thing really stands out to me…these places are SO incredibly far from perfect, and that almost makes them perfect. If that makes any sense. I didn’t see manicured lawns or multi-million dollar cars behind these little gates…I saw hard work and love and care and people tending their precious roses because they love gardening…not because they want to impress the guy next door. Pretty cool.

So for those of you who, like me, have yet to put a downpayment on your first home, consider moving here and buying a fairytale cottage—maybe we will be neighbours : ) Oh, and if you know anything about gardening, you can live with me and I will give you a break on the rent 😉

~C

Restore Original Settings

…home again, home again, jiggity jig…

The anti-climax of a glorious adventure? I used to think so, too, but this time, it most definitely isn’t. I can say with absolute certainty that I thoroughly enjoyed every single day of my trip this summer, and I drank deep of the blessings I received. And I think that it is in that simple satisfaction that I am very much okay with it being over; no regrets, no wasted moments, no stolen worries from tomorrow.

So I live for today. And today, I am home.

…where I was welcomed at YVR with huge hugs, huge-r smiles, non-stop chatter and banter and laughter, a baby with open arms waiting to be picked up, and two little girls standing on stools in the Arrivals lounge holding up this sign…

ya know, like from Full House : )

It’s good to be back. Do I miss Europe? Sure, of course! Just like I miss Africa. And Hawaii. And Cali. And New York. And I know I always will. Always. Despite the ol’ cliche, “home is where the heart is”, for me and my life, that isn’t exactly true. No, pieces of my precious heart are scattered all over the world. I like it that way. A lot.

One day in July as I was riding the train to Hamburg, my little pink iPod shuffle suddenly stopped working. I had pretty much begun the mourning process after several failed attempts to get it started again, when suddenly I realized I should check the Apple website for trouble-shooting tips (okay, so I know I’m a little slow). I was advised to restore the original settings. It was so easy! And behold, my can’t-live-without-it lifeline came back to life. Imagine that.

I think sometimes we all just need to restore our original settings. God probably didn’t intend for us to be shut down and broken and functioning at minimal capacity. But I can honestly say that before I left Canada, that was my life. Like my little pink shuffle, I, too, had turned off and didn’t know why.

But being here has changed me for the better. I pushed the button and restored my own settings. I slept long and deep and peacefully nearly every single night (let’s not count that “sleep”over at the Stanstead Airport, haha). I ate fruit galore and restored my iron reserves by taking a homeopathic supplement every single day. I walked, ran, and/or swam my arse off each day (quite literally; down over 21 inches! yay!). I’m completely caught up in my emails, blogging, and the organization of nearly 1,500 photos from the last 10 weeks. My Shutterfly book is complete and ordered, and I can’t wait to share it with people! I have put a good dent in the creation of Christmas gifts, which will come in handy once choir rehearsals kick off in October. I listened to God and my heart and I wrote in my journal and figured some things out. I wrote and sent postcards to the kids every week and documented the little things. I re-learned the art of resting.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; 
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.*

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.*

Give thanks to the Lord, yes for sure. But also, I give thanks to my Gramma, for without her this would have never been possible. I don’t think I will EVER fully grasp the magnitude of the gift she just gave me…I will be forever grateful. My heart already longs to go back to that place and time. And I also give thanks to my entourage, who kept me wonderful company when I needed a friend.

With so much love,

~C

*Psalm 23:5

*Psalm 136:1