Friday, June 28, 2013

Never Once

This song has been on repeat in my household these days.  Wonderful reminder of God's faithfulness even in seasons when we don't understand or wish we didn't have to fight this battle.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June Holidays

A few months back I was able to score a ticket to Taylor Swift's Red Tour show in Toronto, so I ended up being able to form a vacation around the trip to head down to see the show.

The original plan was to fly to Washington, DC for a few days then head back to Toronto for the concert, but circumstances left me having to change the plans and they ended up being even better.  It's amazing how God knows the timing of everything in our lives and just what we'll need and when we'll need it!

Building in the Distillery District.
I flew into Toronto on Monday (June 10) and spent the first few days of my holiday visiting with wonderful friends and their newborn son just East of Toronto.  They were great hosts and it was so nice to get to spend time with them and see both the Beaches and the Distillery District.  I'd never been to either and besides being different than the run of the mill city experience, both were a photographers paradise which made me very happy that I brought my dslr camera with me.  I loved getting to experiment with it in two uniquely different environments.

On Wednesday night I headed back to Toronto for a few days at the InterContinental hotel downtown (thank you online specials!).  It was a really nice hotel and in a good location for exploring the city.  On Thursday I headed up to the Eaton Centre area to visit with a friend and take part in a few of the activities happening in Dundas Square, including free concerts for a festival that was on.

Friday my brother, sister-in-law and nephew came down to the hotel to visit me.  They were staying nearby few a few months while my brother took some courses for work and it was great to see them and spend the day together lounging by the pool and doing a bit of shopping.  

After they left I spent some time wandering the streets of Toronto, praying for the people and asking God for opportunities to share His love and it was a prayer that He answered.  I had two really incredible encounters with strangers while I was there and it was a faith builder for sure.  I'm learning that reaching out to those around us isn't all that complicated once you cross the fear hurdle.  God wants to use us and He doesn't leave us hanging for words or details when we are both willing and in tune with Him.

Taylor performing "Stay, Stay, Stay"
Saturday was the Taylor Swift concert and it didn't disappoint.  I have been to many concerts over the years, but unlike some concerts, this was like a theatre show mixed with the music.  There was great special effects like confetti canons, sparklers and fireworks, but also amazing sets that created a different atmosphere for each number.  One moment it felt like you were at the Phantom of the Opera, the next at a Cinderella ball, and then it was like the 1920's.  The crowd was massive, sold out at 45,000 people and that really added to the atmosphere.  It was definitely an experience I won't soon forget and worth every penny!

View from my room of the waterfront and
and Toronto's island airport (right).
Sunday morning I spent reading in my room and enjoying the great view I had of the waterfront.  After check out time rolled around I snuck in a last trip to Starbucks and then headed home on a Porter Airlines flight, just in time to celebrate Father's Day with my Opa and the rest of the family.

The trip was a real mix of events and atmospheres, but it was truly what the doctor ordered.  Or should I say God ordained.  Only He could of known the timing that I would receive some really tough news that week and would desperately need time away from home to get some perspective and time to myself to start to process both the news and the implications of it.  While I'm not grateful (yet) for that phone call, I am so thankful about the way that everything worked out and for the grace that He sent my way.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

My Time As A Twentysomething: Part Four - Top Ten

On May 9th I passed from my twenties into my thirties and launched a new series as a way of looking back at both the highs and the lows (more here).  Today for the last post in the series I'm listing my ten favourite things about the decade, in no particular order.

Becoming An Aunt
I've always loved kids and spent years babysitting and hanging out with some of my friends who have kids children, so when I heard the news that my brother and sister in law were expecting their first child I was on cloud nine.  Getting to be at the hospital for the birth (not in the room mind you!) was an amazing experience and meeting my nephew for the first time was incredible and it's only gotten better.  Timothy has become my little buddy and we have such great times together. Whether that's rocking out in the car to my music (he loves going in Auntie's car), playing hockey in the house, or going for walks, I cherish my time with him.  And I love teasing him and he loves teasing me back, his latest gimmick is instead of calling me Auntie Kristen he calls me Auntie Cho Cho Train and get's the biggest grin on his face when he says it because he knows it bugs me.  Love that kid!

In your teens as everyone is changing and going through all that high school drama, a lot of your relationships tend to be more superficial, but in my twenties I learned what real friendship is all about and have been blessed with a lot of pretty incredible people in my life.  People who have discipled me as a believer, come alongside of me during my illness, and people who I get to travel with, learn from and have a great time with.  Doing life with others is definitely the way to live and I don't ever want life to get so busy that I stop investing in the people around me. 

During my twenties I had the opportunity to help organize a few retreats, lead a College and Careers group, speak at retreats, write a book, and see MAD go from a local show to something that is played all over the world.  It's crazy.  If someone would have told me in high school that this was what God would have in store for me I would have never believed it.  But it's happened and to Him goes all the glory!  
Bought My First Vehicle
Just over two years ago I got to buy my first vehicle: a new to me Honda CRV. It was a blessing then and it's been a blessing since.  I love driving it and the freedom that having my own vehicle brings.  I also have really enjoyed learning about vehicle maintenance and the ability to do small jobs on it myself.

A lot of people get married in their twenties and while I am not one of them, I've had the joy of seeing many friends and family members take their own trips down the aisle.  Through weddings my family has doubled in size and I've had the chance to give speeches, be an MC, even be in a wedding party: I love weddings!

Before arriving in my twenties other than the odd trip to Toronto and a trip to Florida when I was much, much younger, I didn't have the opportunity to do a whole lot of travelling, but in recent years I have and it's been such a blessing. My first trip that started them off I couldn't even afford to take as I was in school at the time, but God provided every penny and I had the chance to go out East to attend a radio seminar and I learned so much.  I also had the chance to meet a lot of great people and take in some of the sights.  The year after again God totally provided and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to go to Nashville for GMA Week.  After that the trips kept coming: Traverse City (2007), Holland Michigan (2008), Chicago (2008), Sheboygan Wisconsin (2008), Sudbury (2010 and 2011), Chicago (2012), Ville Marie Quebec (2012), and Daytona Beach (2012).

I love to read and in my twenties I discovered some of my all-time favourite books: On A Hill To Far Away (John Fischer), The Jesus I Never Knew (Philip Yancey), Bittersweet (Shauna Niequist), Rooms (James L. Rubart), The Shack (William Young), The Real You (Kevin Leman), Kisses From Katie (Katie Davis)

Starting A Business
Since I was very young I always dreamed of starting a business.  In my very young years I thought it would be a law firm (I really wanted to be a lawyer), then in my teen years and into my twenties I thought it would be a Christian radio station.  While I haven't crossed the Christian radio station idea off my list for the future, I have opened up a business working with website design, writing, and media.  I truly love what I get to do and especially the fact that I get to work with different churches and ministries as part of it.  It's really very amazing how God brought everything together, it's a dream come true. 

My Church Family
Church is like a family and while no family or church is perfect, I've learned that there is such a richness that can be found when you are connecting with and working with others in the body of Christ.  I love my church.  We've seen some hard times, but I'm so excited about the way we are growing as a body and changing as a body.  It seems like each week there are more people in the seats than the week before and I treasure my small group from the church so much.  We've been together less than two years but they've become my brothers and sisters, my home team and it's been a privilege to grow with them.

Continued Learning
While I stopped my schooling in 2007, I've still had plenty of opportunities to further my education.  I've taken courses, attended seminars and retreats, even done tutorials online and I've loved having that chance to learn new skills and brush up on old ones.  Life without learning new things is boring and I have a long list of things I plan on learning in the next decade!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

My Time As A Twentysomething: Part Three - Not Taking Health For Granted

On May 9th I passed from my twenties into my thirties and launched a new series as a way of looking back at both the highs and the lows (more here). Today I continue this series by looking at something that radically changed me during my twenties and helped me to re-chart the course I was on and that was my battle with health problems. 

During my childhood and teen years having good health was something I certainly took for granted.  Other than cold's and flu's the sickest I had ever been was a bought with chicken pox that lasted for a couple of weeks.  But all that changed during my twenties.

In 2003 I underwent surgery to remove a mass that turned out to be a mature cystic teratoma, the fancy word for dermoid cyst.  The doctor was surprised because after they opened me up they found I had not just one, but two and I can clearly remember him saying "I've never seen that before".  Little did I know those five words would be repeated to me time and time again by medical professionals in the coming years.

Fast forward two years, nearly to the date later and I was back in the OR getting yet another dermoid removed, along with a massive liquid cyst.

Two weeks later I was back in the OR again as a post-operative infection had taken a scary hold on my body.  So much so that the only solution was to reopen my wound and leave it open to heal, while being packed and unpacked twice a day.

Six months and many secondary infections later said open wound finally healed, but in many ways my health "adventure" had only just begun.  In the coming years I was plagued by sleep issues that had me awake most of the night and feeling dead tired most of my days.  Then came other unpleasant side effects that come as a result of sleep deprivation.  And thus the story went.  Trapped in an endless cycle as one system that was off would effect another and then as soon as that was treated, a new one would pop up.

As difficult as it was, and believe me it was, looking back on that time period I am thankful.  It might not have been the story I would have wrote for myself, but I am so grateful for what I learned during that time, for the incredible people who showered me with help and encouragement, and for the opportunities I had as a result.  

I've said it before but it's true.  Had I not gone through what I did, I would have never written my first book and I would have never written my soon-to-be-published second.  My ministry would not be what it is.  And I certainly wouldn't be where I am spiritually, relationally or emotionally if I hadn't go through the Refiner's Fire that shapes us when the storms of life crash in without warning.

It's also prepared me for the journey I'm on right now that I would have been completely unprepared for if it wasn't for my past history and remembering how faithful God was to me during that time. 

So what are some of the things I learned during that time?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are a few:

I learned how lucky I am to be alive and to live in a country that provides health care for its citizens .

I learned the beauty found in simplicity and the wonder that can be found in the everyday: stopping to stare at the stars, looking out the window in awe as the snow flakes float down to the ground, taking time to stop and enjoy moments overflowing with life and love and beauty with family and friends.

I learned to never take my health for granted and that as bad as things can be, they could also be worse.

I learned that there is so much more to the word "healing" than the physical.  That God is bigger than any box I could place Him in.

I learned that the people who come alongside you when things are bad are a gift straight from heaven and these are the people who you need to invest in and do life with.

I learned that my identity isn't wrapped up in a degree or job title or what others think of me.

I learned that I am not capable of controlling my life or anyone else's and I was never meant to be.  That job belongs to God who can see the road of my life's journey from start to finish.

I learned that physical pain doesn't hurt nearly as much as emotional pain does.

I learned that life is not all about me and that my comfort and my desires should come last, not first, when serving others or God.

I learned that it's more damaging to the soul to live a life that is risk free than it is to put it all on the line and fail.

I learned that deep relationships can take a lot of vulnerability and work, but the richness that they add to a life makes it worth it every time.

I learned that things are not always as they seem and thus if I want to walk through life with clarity, I need to be looking through God's wisdom, not mine.

I learned that just believing in Jesus looks much differently than following Him.

I learned that no matter how many crazy dreams or ideas I can come up with, nothing I author will ever be as amazing or life changing as the blessings God has for me.