There’s Power In Love

I sped read through the new Bob Goff book while I was up at my cottage this weekend. It was that perfect type of cottage weather where you could manage a walk on the beach, but then it would be so chilly and you had the perfect excuse to curl up by the fire, drink multiple mugs of hot chocolate and eat a few Timbits (I’ve been indulging in a lot of Timbits since I got home from Florida) for the rest of the day.

Something that stuck out to me while I was reading Everybody Always was this anecdote about “filling up your bucket” he talked about. It actually comes from a children’s book that teaches the lesson of being kind to others, but what he wrote was “we will become in our lives what we put in our buckets”. He realized he needed to stop filling his Das with pride of impatience and really embody the values he wanted to become.

It got me thinking a lot about the areas in my own life where I know I need to step things up. I want to become more loving, more patient and understanding, more empathetic, more generous – and if I want to become that person I need to embody those things even when it feels difficult.


Something I learned from the experience of falling in love is that when you love someone is the feeling of our capacity to love just gets bigger because we didn’t know we could care about someone so much. I’ve heard parents talk about a similar feeling where you think you couldn’t love anything more than you love your partner and when you have a kid a whole new amount of love wells up in you.

It’s like love surprises us – when we thought we couldn’t love people anymore than we do we find out that we can. When you care about someone like that it’s easier to see the best in them. To be a little softer, or gentle, and forgiving. After all, love is patient and forgiving and kind – isn’t it?

When we realize more and more that we have a greater capacity to love than we ever imagined we can try to use it to not only love our significant others or our friends and families – but all the people in our lives that way.

That instinct to see the best in a person? What if we extended that kind of care to everyone? That deliriously in love feeling that makes you wanna dance to work? Can we find that through loving our neighbours and coworkers and friends as generously as we love our significant others? I think we can. I believe when we learn what kind of love we are capable of we can try to extended that in all areas of our lives.


Another perfect thing to do on chilly cottage weekends? Wake up early to watch the Royal Wedding. I rolled out of bed at 6:55 just in time to catch the start of the ceremony (and as soon as it ended I took a 2 1/2 hour nap with my dog – an ideal Saturday morning if you ask me). The ceremony was beautiful but what has really stayed with me was the sermon made by Bishop Michael Curry. He spoke about love, about how the world could look when we act as if love is the way.

Curry said “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it.” He spoke about how when we are loved it feels like something is right “when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right.” 

Curry went on to say the reason it feels right when we are loved is because “We were made by a power of love. And our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.” One of the first times I heard a Brené Brown TED Talk I remember her saying that the reason we are here is connection. I fully believe both of these things. We are here to connect with others and we are here to share love and be loved through those connections. 

The Bishop went on to encourage the congregation and views to imagine what our communities, countries, families, neighbourhoods and governments would be like when love was the way. He said that when love is the way “we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family”. Sometimes I think it’s easy to get frustrated with people when they aren’t someone we know or we don’t know their story – but easy isn’t what we are here for and when you try to connect with people and be softer with them we can find ways to extend deep love into all areas of our lives.


I don’t usually give homework assignments, really you just reading to the end of one of my posts is great. But this week I will ask you one thing: think about the values you want to be remembered for – and then ask if you are filling your bucket with that thing. I’m going to work on being understanding and gracious and assuming the best about people, and that’s just the tip of my iceberg.

Think about how loving your friend, neighbour or showing kindness to a stranger really can change the world – There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it.

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Seasons

Growing up I learned to understand seasons as times of the year when the weather would change. Snow would melt and spring would come, then hot summer days would fade to autumn as the leaves would fall from the trees. Sometimes seasons would be measured by school calendars. The end of a school year was the summer and the fall signalled a new year and a new grade.

We define our lives around the seasons. New Year’s rings in new chances, fresh starts, and hope for what the future holds.

Lately I’ve been thinking a bit different about what seasons mean to me. How seasons of life aren’t necessarily defined by the changing weather. Maybe it is because life after graduating has given a new perspective and my days aren’t defined by “fall term”, “winter term” and “summer”. In short, my life is no longer scheduled into trimesters and seasons feel like they are less about the time of year and more about what we are going through or dealing with.

Seasons of our lives sometimes have different timelines. We learn, we grow, we’re challenged. Sometimes we find ourselves in seasons that aren’t so pretty. Or we see people we know in seasons of joy and wonder why our’s feels so mundane.

I’m a firm believer that seasons of our lives happen for a reason. As the unofficial queen of FOMO (fear of missing out) I know sometimes it is hard to see other people in “better”, “easier” or more fruitful seasons and wonder why you can’t always live in those seasons too.

Why does life have to be so hard? Why do we face seasons of failure, of loss, of heartache, of distance in relationships or struggles of identity? I don’t have answers to all those big questions but I believe that the challenging seasons we walk through teach us important lessons.

As someone who has been lucky to have experienced a very wonderful season of life this winter I can tell you that FOMO – no matter how good things are – is still real. But I’ve learned that comparing ourselves to others, no matter how happy we are is always a losing cause.

Our lives are our stories, and we should be focused on writing our own to the best of our abilities. Don’t worry about who is ahead of you, who is traveling to cooler places than you (yes even while living abroad you can have travel FOMO, wild I know). Most importantly, making sure we are being happy for people in their own seasons of success even if ours is more challenging. If we compare ourselves to others, get insecure about not measuring up we get lost and create conflict that doesn’t need to be there.

You don’t need to measure up and neither of the people in your life. If we can learn to embrace our good seasons and difficult ones and simultaneously cheer on our friends we can build each other up – and then we all win.

Trust me, after a winter in Florida I’m already afraid of my next Canadian winter. But I think it is important to embrace the seasons of life we find ourselves in – learn to navigate and appreciate them for what they are without being fearful of what is coming next or wishing them away.

My most recent season of life has been one of a lot of growth. Pushing myself in new ways. It was a season of emotional powerlifting. A season where I didn’t paint so much. A season I leaned to me more flexible and have faith things will work out. It was a season of overwhelming joy.

Coming home marks a transition into a new season – I’m not quite sure what it holds yet but I know that I will make the best of it by honouring that it is my season and it doesn’t need to be held up next or compared to anyone else’s. No FOMO needs to happen because the only way we miss out on the seasons we are in is if we focus more on what other people are doing than on us.

If you’re in a hard season know that you are growing tremendously and everything will be okay, if you are in a season of joy appreciate each moment and don’t worry about when a colder might hit. If you’re like me, and you’re transitioning between seasons into something a bit unknown stay hopeful for what is coming next and have faith that you are where you are meant to be.

We Don’t Throw Away Trees

I got home from Florida a week or so ago and I saw that some of my plants hadn’t survived Canadian winter super well. My little forest of succulents living on my window sill obviously missed regular warmth and sunlight – so they looked a little worse for wear.

Some of them had been promising and growing big and strong – but now they were in need of some extra care. I thought about starting over and getting new ones to replace the ones that didn’t survive so well, but I decided I want to give these guys a second chance. After all, it wasn’t their fault that winter is so cold and maybe May and June will bring much needed sunlight. And maybe, just maybe, these plants will turn around.

In Florida one of my favourite things were the palm trees, I pointed out every single one I saw for the first week. They often needed to get pruned and dead leaves would be removed – but in the right climate with the correct care they thrive. When palm leaves fall off gardeners don’t give up on the whole tree, they prune it and move on. Sure, my plants aren’t palm tress – but I’m not giving up on them just yet.

I think the same can be said for me and you. Sometimes we might feel like it is too late for us. Like we messed up too much, or there isn’t hope. Maybe it feel like it’s been too long since you called that friend, since you prayed, since you though about going back to school or pursuing that dream.

In my mind the hierarchy for things I have hope for goes like:

3 . My Succulents

2 . Palm Trees

1. You

You’re number one. It’s not too late for you to bloom and do the things you’ve always wanted to do. It’s not too late to grow into the person you want to be.

We often talk about personal growth and we can’t always see it, but plants are a visual representation of that constant growth and they can serve as a reminder of the growth we are always going through. It’s easier to look back on growth and say “yeah I grew through that” vs keeping the mindset of “I am currently growing” or “I’m trying to make progress”. But just like my succulents, palm tress, [insert your favourite tree/plant/ flower] we are always growing and developing and making progress, even when we don’t see it.

If this sounds naive coming from a 22 year old, okay fair. But I’ve had my share of friends who are my age already feeling like it might be too late for them. And I don’t know if you’ve heard but Oprah was fired from her first reporting job when she was 23. Julia Child didn’t released her first cookbook until she was 49, even the legendary Morgan Freeman didn’t land his first major movie role until he was 52. Some people start running marathons in their 70’s y’all, anything is possible.

No matter where you’re at, how old you are, or what you’ve been through – don’t give up on you. It isn’t too late to get a new hobby, explore your spirituality, start eating healthy, start running, to be vulnerable or ask for help. It’s never too late try something new. You might need to do some pruning, but baby we don’t throw away trees around here and you’re still growing.

Beach Reading: A Novel Idea

Last summer, after I graduated from university, I set out to read a massive booklist. I love learning and I didn’t want to stop just because I was no longer in classes. Plus I spend a lot of time at my cottage and my favourite beach sport is laying completely still and reading a good book.

I asked people to recommend anything and everything to me. Books to entertain, to teach me new things, to stir questions inside me, to inspire me. I asked for suggestions and ultimately I got a list of over 30 books. I didn’t quite make it through alllll 30, but I did learn a lot along the way. This week, I’m going to share a few favourites, maybe recommend some titles that we should all read, and say that if you’re going to spend money on something – books are always a worthwhile investment.

Themes in the books I have been reading over the course of the last year talk a lot about our hearts, relationships, faith. Feeling our feelings and getting comfortable with vulnerability. This might sound like the worst reading material to you – but it was so helpful in my own growth. My Top 10 favourites since I put out my call for worthwhile books include :

  • Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (If you’ve every had questions about faith, finding meaning, spirituality or anything along those lines this book asks a lot of challenging but great questions)
  • Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown (Brené is a queen, this is her newest book I love everything about it)
  • If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski (This book reminded me again and again that it’s okay to ask for help, to be honest and to lean on people. I’m thankful for this book)
  • Love Does by Bob Goff (I have lost track of how many times I’ve read this book, I cried when I heard he was writing a second because I was so excited. Please please please read this)
  • Love Lives Here by Maria Goff (Have I cried in public while reading this book? Maybe)
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (Rupi writes poetry that feels so relatable and hits the spot of describing emotions I didn’t know I was missing the words to)
  • Option B by Sheryl Sandberg (If you’re cynical about gratitude this book has all the stats and data to assure you that positivity is worth it)
  • Rising Strong by Brené Brown (If you’ve ever fallen down, felt hurt or disappointed, so everyone, this book is a game changer)
  • Scary Close by Donald Miller (If you’re in a relationship with any human other than yourself, romantic or not, you should pick this one up.)
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimmimanda Nigozi Adichi (This doesn’t really need an explanation, the title speaks for itself.)

If I could pick one book on this list to ask everyone to read it, well I’d have a hard time with it. I’ve gifted Love Does and If You Feel Too Much and Scary Close to many different people because I feel each of them has special things to offer. And apparently they give out We Should All Be Feminists to every 16 year old in Sweden, who knew?

The books I’ve listed get me excited and inspired. They move me to think differently about the world around me. Honestly, a lot of them have inspired posts I’ve already written on this blog. Posts like Let People Love You, Loving People Well, The Gratitude Project, and Let’s Talk About Em-pa-thy  wouldn’t be here if I didn’t pick up a lot of these books.

I started reading a new book yesterday, even though I have about 10 others left to finish. It’s by Bob Goff and it’s called Everybody Always (who happens to be on that list up there, yup that guy I cried over. It’s fine, I’m fine.) Within a few chapters I was feeling fired up and encouraged. I could ask you to pick any title on this list and read it, but my hope today is that you’ll go out and pick a book you’ll get excited about. Maybe it is one of the one’s I’ve talked about but maybe it isn’t. That’s okay, you do you, just find a book that does get you fired up.

I’m excited to start my new summer reading list, I picked up a few new books last week but if you have any recommendations of books you think I should read, either because they relate to ones on this list or they are personal favourites of yours, I always love suggestions.

Happy Wednesday!

Lost & Found

Sometimes things get misplaced and lost and we have such a strong desire to find them again, it’s not even that we necessarily need the item but we had it. When I was little a family friend gave me a Gorilla beanie baby. I loved it so much. And I lost it somewhere – I’m not sure where but I remember being upset about it for a long time. It happens all the time right? You’re getting dressed and you realize you can’t find that favourite blue shirt and now, even though you didn’t want to wear it that day, you desperately want to find it and you’ll waste 15 minutes of your morning looking for it.

Sometimes people can get lost too. Have you ever felt lost? I know I have. Feeling like I don’t know what direction I’m meant to be moving in, seeing other people have their lives together while I don’t know what the next year holds. Sometimes we feel lost in relationships – if we lose someone we might feel like the world isn’t quite the same or the things we thought we understood have now changed. Sometimes we know we’re lost or that something is missing, but other times it isn’t so clear. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing pretty good, like I’m on the right track, and then it becomes obvious that I’m not- that I need something more.

When I think about my faith, I think about how each day feels like a new beginning. The line “I was once lost and now I’m found” from Amazing Grace. I think we are all lost at one time or another, and we need help to get re-centered, be the person we want to be, and know how to keep moving forward.

I spent most of Easter weekend listening to old Hillsong United albums, thinking about how precious life is, and knowing that I need to learn to lean into my faith a bit more. I was investing in what I like to think of as “spiritual self-care”. There has been a lot of conversation lately about what self-care is, and what it is not limited to. No, it is not just eating ice cream or having a bubble bath – I think it can be spiritual and reflective.

In my own life, the hardest self-care practice for me to do is alone time – because I’m so extroverted that I sometimes have a hard time scheduling time for myself. But lately I’ve been trying to give myself that time to reflect and process my feelings. This is where my spiritual self-care flourishes. I need that alone time to make time for God – and I think sometimes that makes it easier for me to be motivated to find the time.

If you need an analogy get ready: I love bacon cheese burgers. And I love soft serve ice cream. Together that sounds like a dream, right? Well if my diet was comprised of that I’d feel sick within a day or two. Have you ever found yourself just craving healthy foods when you know you haven’t been putting good food into your body? This girl can only handle so many waffle fries before I need a salad or an entire bag of baby carrots. Our spiritual health is more similar health than we think and you need to nourish your heart and spirit just like you need to nourish your body.

While in Florida I’ve been part of a bible study, a few weeks ago we talked about the idea of being “overflowing” with the spirit. If you aren’t familiar with what the fruits of the spirit are, they are  “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). The way I interpret the idea of being overflowing with the spirit is embodying those qualities which requires giving yourself time to recharge to have energy to be the person we want to be. If you’re burnt out it’s a lot harder to be those things. And I know when I skip out on that I start to feel more lost, maybe you do too?

Last week I was watching This Is Us with my roommate and was struck by a quote from Mandy Moore’s character “Life has a middle, and middles can be hardest because that’s when you can get really lost.” Sometimes it feels like we are on the right track, sometimes it can be a little more obvious that we don’t have our bearings. And if you are already feeling lost that can be scary or confusing. In the moments I feel most overwhelmed, taking that time to re-center helps me feel a little less lost and a little more found.

Usually, we find the things we lose. Of course there are things we can’t get back – I’ll never know what happened to that stuffed animal gorilla that I loved so much. But I did find my blue shirt at the bottom of my laundry hamper. By giving yourself the time and care you need – you can find yourself a little bit more each day.

Good, Bad, Bad enough, and Better

Language

Language can be a funny thing. We express ourselves but sometimes it doesn’t come across the way we want. I studied communication and I think the power of it is so intriguing and beautiful. I could talk your ear off about semiotics if you want – but the real point is we need to be careful about our use of language. When we aren’t careful, our language can unintentionally make people feel shame or isolation for the things they are dealing with.

The terms ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘better’ are so arbitrary when it comes to describing our mental and emotional health. It doesn’t help us communicate clearly if we use binary language to describe mental health. My biggest pet peeve when someone asks you how you’re doing, especially if they are checking in because you’ve been having a hard time, and you say “I’m okay” is when they assume that means you’re completely fine. You’re totally great. You’re not still being affected in anyway. The thing is, okay doesn’t always mean doing well. Sometimes it just means you’re making progress.

I was talking to one of my roommates about this and she related to this frustration. I told her sometimes I don’t know how to convey feeling better but still having a hard time. She said a phrase she uses, and one I’m going to start borrowing, is “I’m more okay today than I was yesterday.” I love it. Sure, it still leaves things up in the air a little – but I think it helps encapsulate progress while struggling while honouring that the struggle is ongoing.

“More Okay” vs. “Better”

Better is a confusing term to me. I don’t like it because it sounds like struggling with mental or emotional health is a negative or shameful thing. It sounds synonomys with getting back to normal and in my mind it limits the scope of healing. I think we often go through hard seasons to learn valuable lessons, to grow and come out different, or transformed on the other side.

I think it is also okay to struggle.  To face pain and deal with it head on. The healing process doesn’t need to be rushed. I like the idea of being ‘more okay’ than ‘better’. Healing, learning, growing and processing emotions all take time. There shouldn’t be pressure to be normal or better. Healing looks different for all people; it can be feeling pure joy again, it can be getting ready in the morning and having a dance party in the bathroom because you’re excited about the day; it can be booking an appointment with your counsellor two weeks apart because you feel confident you won’t need to see her in a week, it can be making art or making plans with friends because you have energy to be social.

I think, it is understanding that there is no deadline to feel better. And more importantly, that any other state of being is not better than where you are now.

Bad Enough 

You might be wondering why I named this post Good, Bad, Bad enough, and Better. The thing I want you remember, if you remember anything from reading this, is that you don’t have to wait until you’re in a desperate place, you’re “bad enough”, to ask for help; asking for help, in any form, doesn’t have to be a last resort.

Even if you aren’t one of the 1 in 5 Canadians who experience mental health issues or mental illness *, every person has mental health and it’s still important to take care of yourself and keep your mental health in check. If you feel like you’re struggling it is okay to ask for help. I consider counselling like going to the gym for my mental and emotional health. It helps me keep myself in shape if I need to. It’s so good to ask for help when you need it – but I’ve also found that you don’t need to wait until you get to your breaking point to make the call for an appointment. If you’re starting to feel stressed but think you’re strong and can go it alone but then remember that you don’t have to.

Counselling is great and if you feel like it could be beneficial to you you should try it. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. The way we talk about mental and emotional health matters a lot so please be careful with your words and avoid broad or binary language. And always know that it is okay not to be okay, and to take your time to heal from things.

YOLO

This is the most impromptu post I’ve written yet, but my dear readers my family is visiting me in Florida this week!! And I haven’t had the time to sit down and write until now, 11:41 pm on the day I usually share a post with you. I was going to just write this week off – but I’ve had something on my mind and on my heart lately so I’m going to see what I write for you in the next 19 minutes. Fingers crossed that it is coherent.

What’s been on my mind? Well, I’m what you might call an over-thinker. I worry. I stress. I make little things much bigger than they need to. But lately I’ve been doing a good job at not doing that. Being in a new place, having totally different experiences out of my comfort-zone is the kind of position you’d think would add to the stress.

But it actually hasn’t.

Whenever I go somewhere like a new city it’s often up in the air if I’ll get to revisit it. And I don’t just mean in this trip, I mean there is no guarantee that I’ll make my way back to Tampa or Miami again. So I make the most of my experiences, and I’ve been trying not to think too hard about it. Get the burger. Get the ice cream. Say yes to trying new things. You only live once (okay I know YOLO is very 2010 but my Canadian heart loves Drake and it’s just really fitting).

I still have my moments when I second guess myself, or I feel indecisive (impulse purchasing tacky souvenirs is my biggest struggle.) But I’ve found if I don’t give myself the chance to second guess myself and go for things before I think too hard about it I’m golden. The more I just say “yes” and try things, or say “no” and give myself permission not to have to try everything (but be at peace with the choice) the less stressed I get.

I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t think at all, but I’ve loved letting myself relax a little more. Going with the flow. Embracing not making plans and learning to love spontaneous adventures. Taking advantage of the moments in front of you and appreciating that if this is your only chance to live that moment you should do your best to make the most of it. Sure, I could give you examples of impromptu trips to Miami or Orlando, but it you don’t need to be in some glamorous tropical city and to make the most of the moments you are living in.

Maybe it is just treating yourself. Maybe it is making the time to do something you love or connecting with someone you love. Maybe your YOLO moment is learning to trust yourself a little more and let go of stress; giving yourself permission to indulge or be imperfect.

Trust me, when you learn to give yourself a break and let go of the little things you over-think about you’ll give yourself so much more time and energy to make the most of your life. And you’ll breathe a little easier.

So remember, you only live once.