The Impossible – Watch It

Some people know about my love affair with Thailand. I was first introduced to this beautiful country while in London, England in December 2004 when I read an article about sex tourism in Thailand. And just while Thailand was on the forefront of my mind, the tsunami hit South East Asia on December 26. Ever since then I’ve been committed to praying for Thailand.

Now on to movies. To be honest, I don’t really care for movies. I feel that more than anything they are a waste of my time. I come away from 2 hours feeling as though my life was robbed rather than enriched. Rarely does a movie stay with me after the credits have rolled. And more recently I’m noticing how sensitive I am to certain material – how often I find myself thinking, “I know that I can’t shelter my children from this world, but I sure as heck hope they’ll have the discernment to know when something is garbage for their mind and turn it off.” That’s another post.

Now on to The Impossible. Rarely do I endorse movies, because rarely do I enjoy them. But you should watch The Impossible.

The Impossible is a true story of a mom and dad and their 3 boys who were vacationing in Khao Lak, Thailand over Christmas, and who got caught in the destruction of the tsunami. I was crying the moment I saw the first wave, and I’m pretty sure I had a continuous stream of tears falling from my right eye. And I’m on the verge of tears now just thinking about it.

I don’t like movies. Most movies don’t affect me. I think most movies are garbage.

But I think that you should watch The Impossible. Rent it this weekend on iTunes and have your life enriched.

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Words Are My Delight

Blogging is an interesting thing. I often feel like I should only draft up a blog and hit “post” when I believe I have something worthwhile to say.

But sometimes I don’t want to write anything revolutionary. Sometimes I just want to write. Because I’m a writer. And I need a place to do that, even if it’s not that exciting. And if you have something that you love to do, and most of the time you do it well, it doesn’t really make sense to keep it to yourself.

I like to remember Jon Acuff when I write my blog. He is presently the best-selling author of Quitter, but when he started writing his first blog, Prodigal Jon, his readership was limited. But that was actually a great thing, because his blog gave him space. It gave him a place to write in one style, and then in another. To change his theme, his tagline, and his platform without having to worry about his audience or a perceived identity crisis. He had a place where he could express his love of writing and even do it poorly sometimes, practicing now what he hoped to produce later.

I’m currently reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I love this woman because she understands the beauty of books exactly the way I do, that out of “…small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world…” She says that most writers come to her workshops and all they care about is being published. “How can I find an agent?” they ask. But they fail to remember that it’s not the publication that changes us (I know because I’ve been published), it’s the act of writing. It’s the feeling you get when words flow from your mind to your fingertips to create something beautiful. And then in days or months or even years to come, you look back at your work and ask with astonishment and delight (and sometimes humiliation), “Did I write that?” Lamott emphasizes that writers need to love writing not for the external benefits (which aren’t that lucrative, even for a best-selling author) but the internal ones.

And for that reason I will keep writing in this blog, even when I have nothing worthwhile to say. Sometimes I might write something inspirational, but other times I’m going to write about what I’m cooking for dinner, or my favourite cleaning products, or the craft I just made that I’m really proud of. And I’ll do it because when I string words together like beads I feel good inside, because I know I’m doing what I was created to do.

Do it now, do it now, do it now!

I walked toward the escalator trailing behind a handful of giggly university-aged girls who were ready to change the world with a sun salutation and yoga pants.

An Asian man in his mid-to-late twenties fell into step beside me. “I’m the only guy,” he whispered. “This is so awkward.”

I looked at him sympathetically as the managers began to roll out yoga mats in a secluded area on the third floor of the mall. I surveyed the group of 10, all interviewing for one position as a full time seasonal educator at lululemon. Suddenly I felt self-conscious as I tugged at my crocheted royal blue sweater, pulling it further down over my dress pants and staring at my 3-inch heels.

“Clearly I didn’t get the memo,” I told my new friend. “I’m the only one not wearing lulu!”

The truth is, I had never owned a piece of clothing from the store. And until that day, I had never even set foot in a lululemon. And even though I spent all 3 months of my seasonal employment feeling like a less-than-graceful Zumba dancer who accidentally stumbled into an advanced yoga class (re: out of place), it appears as though my time with those chakra-loving hippies had a bigger impact on me than I realized.

****

“What’s your favourite lulu manifesto?” the Bubbly One asked.

“You do know what a manifesto is, right?” remarked the Forward One.

If by manifesto, the managers were referring to those sayings scribbled on the walls and the bags in the store, then lucky for me, I had just read a few while I was waiting for the group interview to begin. Must be karma!

I wracked my brain to think of one that stood out. And then it came to me. Three simple words, repeated over and over:

“Do it now, do it now, do it now!”

“This is how I want to live my life,” I said confidently, and then gave an explanation peppered with words like “goal setting,” “personal development,” and “balance.” (By that point in the interview I had started picking up on lulu culture). Truthfully, I don’t really remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure I garnered some head nods, deep breathing, and a “namaste” (joking about the last one). Not bad for a gal who didn’t know what an Astro pant was.

Though I can’t say that those are the words I live by, I can say that this manifesto is something I think about on a near daily basis as I seek to understand the importance of self-discipline.

As a creative person, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of, “I’ll create when I’m inspired.” But sometimes I feel inspired when I’m at work, or at church, or riding the bus, or drifting off to sleep. And then, when it comes time to sit down and do the work, I just don’t feel like it.

Between my day job and working at home, my hours are precious. And I don’t want to be wasting time with fleeting pleasures when I could be investing in something that I’m passionate about. I recently read an article called, “Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Time.”

Anyone can have a passion, but not everyone can be disciplined enough to use their time well. Not everyone can decide, “I’m going to do this now.”

Not after I check my emails.

Not after I go on Facebook.

Not after I make my third cup of coffee.

Not after I browse the desserts on Pinterest.

Not after I get the house in order.

Now.

Cuz as the lulu manifesto says…

The world moves at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will only leave you two steps behind. Do it now, do it now, do it now!

What do you need to do now?

What’s Your Story?

“My ambition was gone. My story was over.”

Simon and I were sitting on the couch, browsing www.michaelhyatt.com and watching an interview with Don Miller on his latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

After achieving his dream of living in Portland, Oregon and becoming a best-selling author with Blue Like Jazz, his ambition was gone. He woke up one day to realize that he didn’t know what he wanted anymore.

“That’s me,” I told Simon. “I don’t have a story anymore.”

*****

Jesus, My Father, the CIA…and Me,” Simon read aloud as he scanned the books on my bookshelf. “What’s that one?”

“That’s the one the publishing company sent me,” I told him.

“Oh yeah,” he replied. “I never understood how you took that so lightly.”

Rewind to July 2011. I had just returned from Thailand and there and was an email in my inbox. It was from Thomas Nelson Publishers

…and no, they didn’t want to turn Living With My Parents into a book (darn!) but they did come across my blog, and they liked it. They asked if I would be interested in writing a book review for a new author, Ian Morgan Cron. I said yes. They sent me two copies (one for me and one for a giveaway), and 1.5 years later, I still haven’t done anything.

Simon pressed me about this skipped opportunity; a connection that I failed to pursue.

“Have you ever gone after anything aggressively?” he asked.

“Of course I have!” I answered, somewhat offended. My life post-university until Thailand is filled with stories of me chasing one dream after the next.

So what happened?

Like Don said, “My ambition was gone. My story was over.”

What’s a Story?

A story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict in order to get it. Because the want is so huge the conflict makes sense; it’s worth enduring.

When I created this blog 2.5 years ago I was wading through resistance, trying to of figure out what’s next? I had seen some pretty remarkable stories come to fruition in my life, and then there I was, at 26 years old, living with my parents. I needed to want something again. It was time to create a new ambition.

And I did. I went to Thailand for 6 months. And this wasn’t just any ambition; I fulfilled a 6 year dream of living in Bangkok and working to end child sex trafficking. And then in July 2011 I came home, and I was depressed.

If I wasn’t going to go back to Thailand then I was going to get married. That was my next ambition. And lo and behold, here I am less than 2 years later – a newly married woman.

As I recount the details of the past decade I begin to notice a trend: the things that I long for, the ambitions that I chase, and the conflicts I have overcome have all amounted to beautifully written stories. One after the next. I have a long list of fulfilled dreams.

I don’t want to live my life just letting it happen; letting others write a story for me because I don’t write one for myself. And that’s essentially what takes place when we don’t know what we want.

Suffice it to say, my ambition has returned. It’s time to get out my pen and paper and write a new story.

How about you?

What Are You Thankful For?

Thinking of some things I’m thankful for this Friday afternoon:

Heat

There may be a deep freeze outside, but it’s always toasty warm in our apartment. The landlord keeps the heat cranked, and thankfully, we don’t pay for it. A nice change from the place I lived last year, where getting the hydro bill always made me shed a tear or two.

Our Apartment

I love our apartment. It may not be in the nicest part of town, and it certainly doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the inside is just what we wanted: spacious, big windows to let in the bright sun, hardwood floors, two bedrooms, and amazingly affordable rent. We love this place.

My Best Friend

Really, I had no idea that a guy could be my best friend, and that he would be my husband. Of course I always dreamt of it, it just didn’t seem like I was that “kind of girl.” What surprises me about marriage? How much I love spending time with my husband. I can’t get enough.

My Job

My writing opportunities are growing, slowly but surely. With more work coming in my goal is to be able to quit my day job in 2013 and be a full time writing consultant, working from home. I’ve dreamt about this since I enrolled in Rhetoric & Professional Writing at UWaterloo in 2002. Some dreams are slow in coming, but they are certainly on the horizon.

My Android

I was never really a phone person, but I got a Galaxy Nexus on my birthday (switching to the same plan as Simon saves us money) and it’s literally changed my life. It is organization in a phone. I have an app called “Timesheet” that tracks all the hours worked on my writing projects; I use “My OC Transpo” to know exactly when the buses I take are coming; email comes directly to my phone; I use a 5 megapixel camera to take beautiful photos (and Instagram them!), which then upload instantly to my MacBook Air using Dropbox; if I don’t want to write a text, I can just speak it; and of course, Angry Birds. Now I not only know what Angry Birds is, but I am addict. And to think, I almost said no to the Android because I thought my thumbs were too big for a touch screen.

Chocolate

We have a new standard in our home: to always have a steady supply of chocolate on hand. Mmm….

Goals

I started to really sit down and think about my/our short and long term goals and I’m excited to finally want something again.

That said, the day is speeding by. It’s time to get back to work!

What are you thankful for?

Growing Deeper Roots

Friends, Where Art Thou?

I have struggled a lot to make friends here. I don’t know what it is about Ottawa. Maybe because with every other move I made, there was purpose in it (ie – school, work) so I automatically had community.

It’s been incredibly difficult to move from a place where people are very  connected – by way of culture, commonalities, and even public transportation. In Bangkok, if I wanted to see a friend all I had to do was hop on the sky train – a 3 minute walk from my apartment – and I could be anywhere in approximately 20 minutes.

Here I rely on OC Transpo: “the bus service that will make your blood boil.” That’s how I feel about it at least. I’m lucky if I won’t have to wait 20 minutes for a bus.

Last weekend Simon and I had a married couple from our church over for dinner, Josh and Johanne. We were discussing our goals for 2013, and I said I really only have 2: friends and work. First, to build some deep, meaningful friendships, and second, to expand my writing network and hopefully get more contracts.

Josh asked me what I meant by wanting deeper friendships. To put it plainly, I said, “I want to feel like I’d have a reason to stay here even if Simon wasn’t in my life.”

I’m sure if I would have come to Ottawa and remained single, I’d have had more of an opportunity to invest in good friendships. But then again, if I never met Simon, I can’t tell you that I would have stayed…

“Will you marry me?”

Johanne called me on Wednesday night when we were both walking home from work.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about what you were saying on Saturday, and I want you to know that you’re not in this alone. I have friends here, but I don’t have friends that would make me call Ottawa home….so….uh….I guess what I’m saying is…do you want to become better friends with me?”

My face starts getting hot. I’m blushing.

“Oh gosh!” she says, “I feel like I just proposed!”

“I accept your proposal,” I reply, feeling touched. “And I commit to becoming better friends with you.”

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one lacking good friends, not the only one feeling like I just can’t quite be myself, and not the only one longing for something deeper than chit-chat on a Sunday evening after church.

And it’s even nicer to know that I have been sought out in friendship. Pursued. I have confidence that I will grow deep, lasting roots here in Ottawa, even if it takes time. And that’s key.

After all, I’m growing an oak tree, not a mushroom.

What I Learned from 7 Weeks of Hibernation

It is January, and that means that “hibernation” is over. Simon and I are slowly emerging from our “cave” and reintegrating ourselves into social circles. But it’s different than it was pre-wedding.

This hibernation period was a suggestion made by our friends Kat and Jesse. Kat and I were roommates last year when I moved back to Ottawa. She and Jesse married December 30, 2011. One of the best pieces of advice they were given was to have no expectations of spending time with other people (save for family) right after their wedding. Take a month or so to just hang out, settle into marriage, establish routines, and enjoy one another’s company.

Simon and I talk nearly everyday about how much we loved our 7 weeks of hibernation. And our honeymoon established the foundation for this season.

Initially we dreamt of spending a week in a hot destination such as Cuba or Mexico, but the more we thought about it, the more we realized we needed rest. And how restful is it to wake up at 3am to drive to the airport and catch a flight after several emotionally charged weeks building up to a wedding? Not very. Besides, we didn’t need to start our marriage with an exciting and exotic honeymoon destination. Honeymoons are exciting and exotic on their own!

So we rented a cabin on the lake just 2 hours west of us. We were the only ones on the property besides the owners (who left midway through the week to go to Toronto and offered for us to stay longer for free. PLUS, they gave us unlimited use of the authentic Finnish sauna.) No cell phones, no computers. No people. We cooked meals, we built fires, we roasted marshmallows, we drank wine, we ate chocolate, we went for walks, we sat by the lake, we watched movies, we journalled, we talked, we prayed, and we slept – a lot! It was bliss.

Gorgeous November weather

Gorgeous November Weather

(You’re probably wondering how the heck we’re in bathing suits in November, in Canada. Well, it was a balmy 11 degrees celsius that day! AND…we just came out of a steamy sauna).

Hibernation has been amazing, because like our honeymoon, it has given us the chance to unplug.

When we removed expectations from the picture, it was easy to see how often we do things simply because we feel like we have to. Maybe we hang out with someone because we feel like we owe it to them. Or we serve somewhere just because we think we “should”. Or we say “Yes” to seemingly good opportunities when it would be far wiser to say “No”. For the last month and a half we have been justified in saying “No” to friends and activities because we just got married. They get it. But will they get it now?

Because that period is over, and “No” is winning. To clarify, we aren’t saying that we don’t want other relationships or responsibilities in our lives. We do. But we are discovering what our priorities are and not feeling bad if a person or an activity doesn’t fit into it. It’s not about “I should do this”; it’s not about cramming our schedules to prove our worth with busy, important lives; and it’s not about the fear of missing out on fun. It’s about freedom. Simon calls it “Freedom to Thrive.” And he writes an awesome blog about what that means to him right now here.

Our honeymoon was a retreat. It was a chance to hit “reset” and focus in on how we want to live our lives. It was an opportunity to dream together and write those dreams down on a list, believing in faith that they will come to pass. With this kind of clarity it’s a lot easier to begin building – to make decisions about how we invest our time based on wisdom.  (More on how that looks for each of us later).

I love what Jon Acuff writes in this post: “‘No’ is complete sentence.” We don’t have to say “No” to something and then give a long list of reasons as to why we said no. We have the freedom to just say no, because “No” is a complete sentence.

Thank you, Kat and Jesse, for passing our your best piece of advice. With it we’re learning weight of the words “Yes” and “No” and the freedom they bring when executed from a place of trust.