Blog, Get To Know Me, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Your Love Life: When Reality Looks Nothing Like Your Expectations

Dear reader: I started writing this piece back in 2014 (almost 2 years ago) as a little story with mini chapters, chronicling my “love life” from my youth up until the present day, in my mid 30’s. For some reason, I just felt compelled to have my story “out there” in the interweb of digital humanity. Who knows if this will be read by others, or if this is mainly for me but, either way, it’s here for you to read if you so desire, and maybe it will encourage you in your own unique journey. Since I wrote this a while back, a lot has changed in my heart and spiritual practice, but generally I decided to keep it as it was written, since that was where I was at in those stages of my life. My 36-year old self has let go of a lot of the definitive spiritual lingo I previously used with such gusto, while still maintaining a faith-walk (but one that I believe is gentler and more compassionate to the human heart).  –Valentine’s Day 2016.


 


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Life never turns out as you had planned.

Reality never matches your expectations (like the illustration above which perfectly describes my life)!  The story that gets written in real life never matches the script we’ve written ahead of time in our hearts. The published version looks NOTHING like the rough draft!

As a young girl, I daydreamed of a handsome prince coming to rescue me and sweep me off my feet as I entered adulthood.

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Supposedly, a relative of mine told me a few years ago of a memory she had of me from when I was a young teeny bopper. She mentioned one summer conversation we had whilst hanging out on the cottage dock, I told her of my sincere desire to move out of my family’s home and be married by the age of 18. I don’t recall ever saying that, but I guess I did! I don’t think I really ever expected to be married at 18, but I guess I wished it at one stage!

I did move out of the family home at 18. I certainly didn’t get married. I didn’t even go on a single date! I did turn down one blind date invitation in my last year of high school. Maybe he was the one…

I went off to college at 19 and got involved with a few guys (not at the same time! I’m a one-at-a-time girl). These college boys were definitely NOT good for me, but hey, sometimes those bad boy catastrophes catapult you into making some drastic changes for the best… In this case, I went off to Africa for a few months on a summer break from college, nursing a broken heart, and had the most amazing experience — I bumped into the Heart of all Hearts, Jesus Christ, while tucked away in Uganda. This is where I turned 20, and entered a new and exciting decade — my 20’s.

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With a new and beautiful relationship with the Lover of my Soul, I had fresh vision for a godly marriage and a godly family, and I was so excited for this chapter of my life to start! For the most part, I mainly believed I’d be married between the ages of 23 and 25. The age of 24 seemed ideal.  That seemed to be the “right” age for me; I was out of college, educated, having some sense of calling and profession, had a car, an apartment full of furniture, good friends and an enjoyment of life. I had walked out some significant inner healing in my heart and was walking in growing consistency with God.

I thought I was ready — But God seemed to have other plans.

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I passed 24, and one potential possibility came along. I was smitten. I thought he was the one. Boy, did I ever. But he wasn’t. It took me quite a while to recover from that one… because it deeply shook some of my core beliefs about hearing the voice of God. Through it all, though, I came out better and stronger and more full of love and hope than before. What can I say… my heart is one stubborn dreamer.

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I hit 25. I liked the age. I was fairly content in where I was in life, and felt a lot of joy in my walk with God. Many of my friends were marrying at this time and I also had a lot of other friends who were really struggling with this age and their singleness. I think I did fairly well navigating this stage… It didn’t feel awesome to be single because I really wanted to be married — but I was happy. I enjoyed life. I felt like I was in a good place in my heart.

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Then I hit 26. It was a turning point for me. On the other side of 25, it felt like a completely new season of entering the latter half of my 20’s. The sobriety of it hit me. The responsibility of it. The expectation (but in a good way) of realizing that I’m not a kid anymore. I am really an adult, and I want to make something fruitful of my life. I don’t want to sit around and just let life pass me by. This was my life, and it wasn’t something I had to wait to happen to me. Life was already happening and what would I do with the life I’d been given? Life could be fun but it was not to be played with. I was to take hold of life and not take it for granted.

So, at 26 I began to seriously wrestle with my identity, my calling and my destiny. What was I really on this earth to do? To be? To become? To give to the world? This wasn’t a dress rehearsal. This was the real thing.

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So, I did something crazy. I threw out the Canadian Dream (the Canadianized version of the American Dream). I did something unexpected and unplanned…

…at the age of 26, I went off on a world adventure with God. I joined the mission organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) starting out in Kona, Hawaii, USA. Neither had ever really been significant dreams of mine. I had always wanted to travel at some point in my life, but I wasn’t one of those obsessed adventuring souls that was itchin’ to travel the world at all times and make it my oyster. I also had never really dreamed of doing overseas missions; I had been fairly content living in Ontario, Canada. But I just knew that something drastic had to change in my life. There was an invitation from God to experience a side of His heart I could only see if I said “yes” to this daring adventure of letting go of all my safe and tidy life plans. So, off I went, with my hand in God’s, into the unknown. And boy, did it change my life drastically and set me on a course in my life to minister with God in bringing His good news into the nations of the world.

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At that time (I was 26), I entered into my first serious dating relationship.

We met on a Christian online dating service, after I returned to Canada from my first YWAM training school. He was the Australian bloke I ‘ministered to’ and ‘encouraged’ (choke, ugh, gulp) on MSN Messenger (remember that ancient thing?) while I was looking for the right guy. But, whoops, I got emotionally attached to that Australian bloke. And oops, I moved down under for him too.

Let’s just say it was messy. Chronicles of the fast and furious. My painful childhood, dysfunctional relational patterns caught up with me! And even though I knew it was unhealthy, I was determined to see this guy made whole through my salvific love for him, to the point where I even contemplated marrying him to see him through to wholeness. Talk about a really warped view of myself as the saviour of mankind! I (painfully) learned (big time) about a woman’s inability to save or rescue any man (or human being at that), and somehow I had enough sense in my gut (and the support of loved ones) to get myself out of a very bad thing.

Enter 27, and after the wondrous deliverance out of that very bad thing, I was blessed to be living in New Zealand with YWAM Oxford. I humbly accepted my need to grow in relational maturity, and just walk out my life and ministry to the Lord in a loving community in a little town of 1400 people, surrounded by mountains and fields of sheep and cows. Just what I needed!

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27, 28 and 29. Single, but living life to the full! I was experiencing the most amazing things and living out the craziest, coolest life. More than I’d ever dreamed of! I was doing what I loved… and loving it! Living in a diverse community, worshiping and loving God together, discipling young people from multiple nations, exploring beautiful places in a glorious nation, travelling to multiple nations and having the time of my life. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. I was given so many rich, rich experiences and met so many amazing people and my heart was enlarged to live and love with a greater capacity and depth. God’s global family came alive to me, and God placed the nations of the earth into my heart where they still live and breathe to this day.

In this extended season, I met many amazing men of God. Godly AND fun men. I may have liked a few of ’em but none of these friendships progressed into romance. Overall, I was grateful to find solid friendships with men in this season of my life, and I learned that not all great friendships with the opposite sex have to lead to exclusive relationships. You really can have guy friends…

And then I turned 30…

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I turned 30 in New Zealand on this YWAM base. A bunch of the female leaders and moms and friends of mine,  hosted a lovely birthday celebration for me to welcome me into my 30’s. It was wonderful. I even got given some sexy lingerie that made me blush. It was a landmark birthday. It surprised me how WONDERFUL it felt. I thought it would feel bad, but it didn’t! I felt like I entered my 30’s with so much more joy and confidence in my identity in God and in my life. I felt a grand excitement for this new decade. This shocked me! I felt a whole new fellowship with Jesus Christ, as His 30’s were the time of His wonderful years of ministry. His glory years! I felt this same sense of coming into “my prime” and I loved it! I didn’t think I would feel this way, but I did. Shocker! Thirty was the new sexy!

At this time, my whole life was transitioning as well. I finished up a few wonderful years of directing Discipleship training schools and globe-trotting, and was sensing a transition and desire to plant roots, create a more sustainable life of worship and prayer and settle into a more established home life. I didn’t want to keep doing short term things. I wanted long term. I thought this would be overseas in another nation, living with a new people group. That was stopped. I did move. But to another city in New Zealand. And I did plant… for a couple years, hidden away in a prayer room, praying and singing and worshiping full time and falling in love with Jesus in a deeper and more focused way. I would have loved to have met a man in this time. I was 31 and 32.

I was in a great place with God. It was about time, I thought.

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I felt such joy and satisfaction in God. All that was missing was a man and some kids, I thought. But it was not to be. The man didn’t happen, no matter how much I hoped and prayed and believed and inwardly kicked and screamed (while outwardly looking all holy in a prayer room)!

If anything, things looked worse than ever.

In this hidden season, I didn’t really even have any good guy friends! It was like I’d been put in a convent and exiled to the existence of a nun. Don’t get me wrong, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I find MANY things attractive about the monastic way of life, but during this time, I just really wanted to get married. I felt like I was in the prime of my life and more ready than I’d ever been for marriage. And in THAT season of readiness, it looked more like a relational desert.

I didn’t choose this! This was the very opposite of what I wanted!

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Surely, God had accidentally fallen asleep and had missed this very important appointment on His schedule. But somehow, God was not asleep. He was wide awake, and by His good leading, I was in this very place, this very desert, where guys wouldn’t even talk to me for more than a minute or so. That was His doing, somehow. It created a vacuum of longing and desire in my heart for GOD HIMSELF.

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So, I hung out with my girlfriends and I hung out with the God-Man, and fixed my eyes on His beautiful Face. I got consumed with the beautiful Face of my God. I was lost (and found) in His beauty. If I couldn’t have my human man, I would have The Man, God Himself, in all His perfection and glory. I would see Him face to face if it was the last thing I did! I was consumed. A woman consumed by Love.

Yet… my heart still longed.

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My heart longed for human companionship. For a total donation of myself to another. To see this love multiplied in the hearts and faces of little ones.

But even with these longings, I knew I had to continue on. Keep going forward into all that God had for me.

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I started to feel the urge again, not to put my life on hold, not to just wait around, which can happen so subtly in the heart of a Christian woman, well, any woman for that matter. We start to think that as a single woman we are hindered from fulfilling our life purpose as a wife and mother, and so we start to slow down, and start to hold back. We stop reaching out. We stop showing up to life. We just start sitting around and waiting. Expecting. Hoping. Waiting. Getting frustrated. Feeling hindered. Feeling jipped. Feeling empty. Feeling lonely. Feeling incapable of going forward on our own for one more day, let alone another year! We start to shut down in very subtle ways. We begin to entertain the temptation of living with jilted resignation, discontentment and this subtle, hidden envy of anyone living with what we feel we should rightfully have for ourselves. It’s a recipe for an unhappy, bitter life.

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But the Spirit’s call to absolute surrender and complete trust in God is incessant! He won’t let up! The Spirit of God is stubborn in His little nudges to our hearts!

The Spirit of God within me would not let me stay in this funk for long! The call was so strong to just lay all these unmet longings before the altar of God, and give Him my all once again, trusting Him completely with my future, whatever may happen (or not happen). I handed Him my singleness (even though I had just had a SIGNIFICANT encounter with God where I believe He spoke a promise of future marriage). I handed Him all possibilities and dreams of that marriage and family, and I gave them up to Him. I entrusted them to Him. Essentially, these promises were crucified with Christ at the Cross, uncertain if they would ever be resurrected.

I faced the reality that my dreams may never be resurrected. I came face to face with that pain.

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And in that time, I decided that Philippians 3:7-11 was true. Absolutely true.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. (Phil 3:7-8)

And this is how I let go of my clinging-expectations and my desperate grasping to the dream of marriage and family. I felt it had been promised to me by God Himself. But I realized I could not hold onto it myself. I needed to hand it back to God. I can’t make His dreams come true. I can be available to partner with Him, but no human can force the hand of God. We cannot rush God. We cannot change His timing. So instead of getting mad at God for why He wasn’t fulfilling His own promise, I decided He must have some good reason for the delay. So, the dream went into the ground. I let the future man go. I let the future children go. Like seeds being buried in the soil of God’s heart.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

And this is how I ended up letting go of my adopted homeland, New Zealand at 32. I began to make plans to set off in the direction of a certain frontier nation, the same one I tried to move to when I was 30. If I was not to marry and have children (“at all” or “yet”), I desired to give myself fully to a people group. Be a mother to a nation. I knew I could not hold back. I knew I could not withhold this love that had to be released and given to others. So, with my hand in the hand of God, I set off in this direction. I’d had my commissioning from my mission base and I was ready to book my one-way flight.

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In the midst of this massive season of transition and a global-move, I “bumped into” the Father heart of God and His massively tender, kind love for me. I came into the revelation of being a son and daughter of God. I’d heard the teaching for years, but somehow it hadn’t penetrated into the deepest parts of my heart, where I held onto my deep beliefs about myself, God and my life. I didn’t realize how much of an orphan I was!

And the Father, in His kindness, blocked my way to this frontier nation. He would not let me go.

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I was determined to go there, alone. Like an orphan. I was going to do the most drastic, radical thing I could do. I don’t know what I was trying to prove? It was sincerity mixed with a lot of orphan-thinking. Surely, this would satisfy my unmet needs. Surely this would replace the ache in my heart for a husband and a family of my own. Surely, if I just adopted a whole nation, I would feel like my life finally mattered and counted for something? Surely, if I did the most radical thing I could think of, God would reward me with what I really wanted? Surely, I’d garner the praises and admiration of mankind for how severe and radical I was in my devotion to God, that I would go out as a single woman, dying to all my earthly hopes and dreams and sacrificially laying my life down for this frontier nation and people!

I shudder now at the mixed motivations behind why I was doing some things in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely loved the people of that nation. I genuinely wanted to see them come into relationship with their Heavenly Father, but I was hurting and dying inside (and I didn’t even know it). I had given up all my hopes and dreams and desires, and essentially my heart was numb.

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God interrupted all my plans (yet again), and brought me home.

To Canada. My home land. The place I never wanted to come back to. It was too tame. Too normal. It was complicated with family stuff. Certainly, it was the devil leading me back there. I’d even been told this by some well-meaning people. But deep down, I knew it was God calling me HOME.

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By now, I realized that if there was such thing as a “Plan A”, I was certainly onto Plan X, Y or Z!  Time to throw out the old manuscript! Houston, we have a problem! The story has definitely gone off the page!

I lost my compass at this point. Any sense of “due north” was gone. Obliterated.

None of this was a part of the plan at all! Everything was messed up! What’s a girl to do when she feels she is “called” to cross-cultural missions and she goes back to her home region, and is now living back with her relatives at the age of 33?

The only thing that had been holding me up, and giving me any purpose, was the “call” to go to this people group and give them my everything. And now that plan had been thwarted. I had given up all my other earthly hopes and dreams, so what was I to do now that I was back in the very place I’d said I was not called to and not able to do the thing I’d felt called to do?

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At 33, I crashed.

From my vantage point, it was devastating.

Hopes and dreams. Gone.

Sense of direction. Gone.

Sense of purpose and calling and daily ministry. Gone.

Sense of significance. Gone.

It sucked, big time! It really did. There were other things thrown in the mix that made it uber uber sucky. And I’m not one to say things suck very much (I don’t even like the sound of the word). So, I hesitate in even using it, but it would be the most honest word I could use to describe how I felt at the time. Here I was, 33 and single and without a sense that my life was going anywhere anymore. It wasn’t even like I was just stuck. If anything, I felt I had fallen backwards. It felt like such a huge fall after such a momentous build-up to taking the craziest leap of faith to move to a foreign nation.

Well, God did begin a new chapter of my life, but in the most surprising way.

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In the very place I felt I would have no life, God gave me a life. It was in His goodness that He brought me home to Canada. God surprised me big time.

I was able to reconnect with many childhood friends who have become a real source of normalcy and encouragement and fun.

I have met many new people and attended some great churches in a couple towns I’ve lived in.  At one point I even thought I’d met a guy… but alas, it was not to be. Yet again, I learned more about myself. I learned…

I was also able to get connected to a good therapist, to process the things going on in my heart and life.

I also came home to my family, getting to know them in a more local way again, and having the time of my life with my dear little niece.

Because of these things, my heart began to come alive again. My joy began to return. In the very place I’d labelled hopeless, hope returned.

God began a good work of restoring my compass and my sense of my direction. Slowly but surely, (and still to this day), hope and vision is being restored, renewed and in many ways totally revamped. My sense of purpose and significance and identity is being restored, little by little. One by one, God is resurrecting hopes and dreams and breathing life back into my weary heart.

But, since my return to Canada, the longing for marriage has increased, and it’s painful!

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The promise of marriage and family has returned in all its glorious beauty. It’s somehow enlarged and expanded beyond my ability to contain it any longer. My capacity and desire to love and to give my all is greater than ever. The huge dream stands before me and I don’t know what to do with it. It’s not even something I can hold in my hands. It’s too big for that. I can’t shake it off. It’s just there, enveloping me and I can’t do anything about it.

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Some days I contemplate crucifying it again and going back into the comfort (?!) of crucified numbness. Yes, I got depressed when I killed my hopes and dreams, but somehow I might prefer that to the pain of unmet desires and longings?

How am I to carry these unfulfilled promises in my heart?

How am I to carry my heart in this prolonged season?

How does one accept the resurrection of these hopes and dreams and yet not die from the pain of holding the very things that promise life?

These are questions in my heart that I don’t have a single answer for.

To let you in on a secret, by the time I hit 30, I had believed that marriage (or a relationship) would happen at the perfect age of 33, the age of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The hardest year of His life, but definitely the most glorious. So worth the wait of the 32 years of His life leading up to His 33rd.

33 would be perfect. I’ll take it!

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But my 34th birthday came and went a couple years ago and I was still very much a single woman. I definitely never thought I’d still be single at 34. In the same way that Jesus did not live on earth beyond His 33rd year, so I never had a paradigm for being single beyond 33.

And then I turned 34.

And then 35.

And now 36.

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I kind of laugh now about the fact that I ever thought I had a plan for being married at a young age. It almost seems laughable now. Life has a life of its own and I can barely figure it out! Reality is nothing like what I expected! It’s almost like I have to throw out all of my expectations. Throw out all the plans!

The grid on which my plans were made no longer exists. It really doesn’t exist. It was an illusion that carried me wistfully along for many, many years, but sometimes you just have to let go of things that just don’t work for you anymore.

And expectations just don’t seem to work for me anymore.

It put this pressure on me that just wasn’t helpful. And it’s still not helpful. It doesn’t help me live life to the full today and find a contentment to trust the ways, the timing and the leading of the Lord…. but to be honest, it’s kind of odd now for me to even use the phrase “the leading of the Lord.” I’m just not as certain as I used to be about what I believe about God and “His ways” and “His timing” and “His will”. I just don’t know what He thinks on the matter anymore. And that’s okay.  I’ve discovered that demanding certainty is more of a trait found in the immature than the mature.

I would say that my faith in recent years (not just in the area of my “love life” but in all areas of my life) has undergone quite a metamorphosis, through many harrowing transitions and diversions of thought and opinion and belief.

I really just don’t know anymore.

If I could use an illustration, my faith would be more like swiss cheese now. I have many questions which create holes and crevices, but I know the cheese still exists. I know the cheese is good. But what is the essence of this cheese? That aspect I find more puzzling now.

I’ve come to a place in my life where I just have to carry God and all my ideas of God and His ways very, very lightly. I just have to have a simple, unanalyzed trust. It’s just too heavy to try and figure God out. It’s exhausting. I just need to live easier day by day, with more peace in my heart, more innate trust in the flow of life and what is in my future, and acceptance of whatever state I happen to be in now. I have so many questions, but instead of analyzing the theology of God’s will in my relationships (or lack there of), I just need to have a healthy curiosity for whatever the future holds.

I have to continue to surrender fears and anxieties of never marrying, or never having biological children (tick tock goes the clock) and hold on to a simple trust that life will give me what I need to receive. And to have grace not to grasp for things that are not on my path. And who knows what this path is, other than what I can see right in front of me right now. Who the heck knows? I sure don’t!

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So, with all that said, even though I still have a strong desire to be a wife and a mother, what I am right now is a daughter, a sister, a friend and an aunt. This is who I can be right now, right in front of me. I will not reject the identity and role I have been given in this season just because I would prefer to add the title of wife and mother to the list… There are many amazing things I can create with my life with the ingredients I have right here on the platter in front of me.

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I hesitate writing this next part because my opinions and beliefs have changed so much. But, yes, deep down in my heart I still hold on to what I believe is a promise from God, that I will be married one day and a mother (of some sort, whether biologically or through adoption). In a certain part of my heart, I still carry hope in that promise. But more and more these days, I’m not turning that hope into my own personal expectations. I can’t force a promise’s fulfillment. I can’t force God’s hand, if it is indeed His hand that is orchestrating this whole thing.

Who knows if these desires and longings will be fulfilled. Who knows how and why God is doing what He is doing. Who knows how the promises will come to pass. Who knows if I have prevented the fulfillment because of my own actions or inactions. Who knows.

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So, since I can’t even begin to solve the mystery and figure out His timing (or life’s timing, however you want to put it), I guess I will just embrace today. Embrace the mystery.

And I will pray. For grace and patience, but especially for new eyes to see the gift of today, the unexpected, surprising gifts that are given to me every time I awake to live a new day.

And I will trust. I will rest with a trusting heart, that goodness will seek me out and follow me all the days of my life.

And I will embrace (not reject) the ache of a longing heart.

And I will enjoy all the gifts God has given me already. I will love the people God has given me. I will give them my heart and let them give their heart to me. I will let my heart grow and expand and be filled with more and more love, and more and more people.

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And I won’t kill the longing. I won’t kill the ache. I won’t kill my heart. I will let my heart love. I will let my heart live. In this case, to guard my heart means to let the walls down and let it live!

Who knows where all this will go. I guess I have no expectations and no plan! The story’s gone off the grid and I have no manuscript for what’s ahead. I guess I’m completely out of control, and maybe one day I’ll learn to love that (?!)

So, let this unexpected, unplanned, surprising story continue…

 


*Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Shena Pamella  [with edits by Alison Lam]
Blog, Get To Know Me, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness

I’m thankful for…

Well, today is Thanksgiving in Canada. I love this day. Not only do you get yummy food, but you get to openly thank God and others for all the good gifts we have in our lives that have been given to us by God, who is the best Dad in the world. I haven’t been here for this holiday in Canada for many years, nor have I been here for this amazing season of Autumn colours in ages… it’s been spectacular, really. I feel like I have “tourist” or “visitors” eyes, gawking and reveling in the majestic array of colours, splashed across the treed landscape of Muskoka. God’s certainly stolen the show this year, as the master Artist in residence! He doesn’t seem to have a problem with taking bragging rights for His creation!

I just wanted to take a few minutes to write a blog and make it official: I’m thankful.

I have so much to thank God for this year. This felt-gratitude in my heart has been a long time coming, as I’ve gone through the fire to come to this place of genuine thankfulness to God for what He has done to get me HERE right now. If some of you tune out as I write about what I’m thankful for, that’s fine. If anything, this post is more for me. Building an altar, a landmark, just to give thanks to my God, for His goodness to me.

I am thankful for the 6 years I had in New Zealand, ministering alongside some of the most amazing people the world has ever seen. I am thankful for the rich, rich inheritance I received from the people, from the land, and from the experiences I was given there, and around the globe over the past 7 years. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth. My eyes have been delighted and fascinated by the glory of God in His creation over that little nation. God spoiled me rotten there. Blessed my socks off there. Showed me His goodness there, and I will miss that place immensely.

I am thankful for one of my mentors (and a dear friend), Georgina Bennett Williams.  Right now, she is in New Zealand, dying (gracefully and courageously) of cancer, after having JUST reached her 5 year mark of remission, and was about to head off on a new venture with her husband. She went into the hospital about 6 weeks ago and they found the cancer had returned with a vengeance with no chance to treat it. We are praying for a miracle, but Georgina has peace to meet Jesus face to face and is ready to go be by His side. She is one of those people that literally glows with the radiant love and joy of Jesus. I am thankful for her friendship, her example, and her continual challenge to me to reflect Jesus in all I do and say, and to obey Him no matter the cost, and no matter how weak I think I am. She has inspired thousands of young people and I count myself blessed to know her, to love her.

I am thankful that today, I got my OHIP coverage back in Ontario! Since I have been out of the country for so long, I didn’t have healthcare coverage here. It’s just one more thing that God is using to say to me with open arms, “Welcome, home, Alison. Welcome home.” I have been here exactly 3 months, and so I’m really back here. It’s taken almost this whole time to finally feel a sense of homecoming and peace and rest in being here. I AM SO THANKFUL FOR THIS. God knows it’s been tough to reach this place in my heart.

I am thankful that I have a lovely home to live in up here in Bracebridge at my aunt and uncle’s place. I have my own room, and opportunities to get creative and help renovate and paint and decorate and cook up a storm — things I love to do! I have been welcomed here, and I have peace here. It’s so unexpected, how I ended up north here in “cottage country”. I shake my head at how God has divinely orchestrated it all, when it all just seemed like a series of unplanned circumstances that got me up here. I thought I’d have no life up here, and it would be me and Jesus, just tucked away in solitude, with not many opportunities to do stuff up here. How wrong I was! God has been blessing me, left right and centre, and I am getting really excited for what lies ahead! I’m so thankful for this. God is full of surprises. I’m learning that it can be good to not plan out too much of your life. Don’t have too many plans. Leave some empty spaces, so you leave room for the amazing surprises of God!

I am thankful for the support, encouragement, many prayers, phone calls and emails from friends and family who have really opened up their arms to me, so I could lean on them, as I made this huge transition back to Canada (and cried and flailed my arms)! So many of you know how unexpected a shift it was for me to accept the change in my life plans this year, how I walked through a lot of pain and confusion over the God-interruptions and changes. But it is, without a doubt, so obvious to me now that God really has led me back here. I have a certain tangible grounding of peace in my heart that is giving me a foundation for this new season. I am so thankful for this peace. The peace of God bears fruit in joy and holy playfulness; it’s one of the best gifts in the world!!! Thank you God!

I am thankful for the pain I’ve gone through. It was a good and necessary wake-up call, and an invitation into a holy re-calibration, a re-alignment, and a re-awakening to the reality of wholeness of heart, and the goodness of God.

I am thankful for having this Autumn in Muskoka. I know I mentioned it earlier, but I had to say it again. The colours have been out of this world!!!!!!!!! I love the palette of colours on the trees right now. It’s magnificent… and fleeting. So I embrace it while we have it right now.

I am thankful for a group of financial supporters who have believed in me, and blown me away with their generosity in this sabbatical season. All I can say is “Wow. God is good and generous and kind.” Thank you. You know who you are.

I am thankful for the podcasts and teachings of  Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton, and the Fatherheart crew in Taupo, New Zealand. (James and Denise Jordan, etc). They’re becoming like friends to me, in a sense, where I curl up with my iPod in a cafe and learn from these wise men and women. Kris Vallotton’s teaching on wholeness and being tri-dimensional beings, is simply awesome. I love Bill Johnson’s stuff on sonship, and the dreams and hopes that come alive in sons and daughters, compared to the survival mentality of orphans. Man, it’s good stuff! The Fatherheart crew and their teachings on the father heart and mother heart of God, God as our Real Father, and coming out of the bondage of orphan-spirited Christianity. Wowzers. Life-changing stuff.

I am thankful for the counsel and wisdom of mentors here in Canada and other parts of the world. We all need fathers and mothers, those older and wiser than us, to help guide us along the way. God has been excessively kind and generous to me in giving me these mamas and papas, people to help navigate me through life. I humbly and gladly take my place as a daughter, to learn and grow. Thank you, God, for providing some new ones here in Ontario to help me walk this season out well. Hand-picked helpers.

I am thankful for the desire to get creative again. I’ve had a bit of a drought, when it comes to my art and design and music. I feel the little inklings within me starting to stir, to get out some ink and paint and start to do some creative projects. I also want to get my hands dirty and do some home decoration, green thumb garden stuff, and some other projects around the house, or just helping others out with things they need to get done. I am thankful for the time in this season I have to do these things, with a flexible schedule.

I am thankful (so thankful) that God is who He says He is. He is a good Dad. He gives good gifts. He has good plans. He has good purposes. And He is unchanging. He is trustworthy and true to His word. He is kind and caring. He is generous and patient. He is beautiful. Sometimes we just need to take a time-out from this world, with all its troubles, just to sit back and fix our eyes on His face, His beautiful face. I am so thankful that He has taken the time to love me well. He has gone out of His way this year, especially, to make sure I GET IT. Reallllly get it. He loves me, and He will interrupt my entire world just to make me understand that He is good and wants good things for me. He cares! He cares!

So, there are a million more things I could say, but that is all I’ll say for now. It’s time to get back to preparing Thanksgiving dinner and beautify the table settings, and enjoy the company of my relatives and some visiting friends from Germany! And I want to go for a nice walk to take in the lovely colours and the falling leaves. I can’t wait to rake the leaves into a big pile and jump and play in them, like a little kid! We all need a little silliness in our lives :)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Take the time today or this week to tell God what you are thankful for, and tell the special people in your life that you love them, and why you love them.

Hugs,

Ali

 

Blog, Get To Know Me, Ministry + Missions, News + Updates

The Last 3 Years….

Note: I recently sent this email letter to the staff and students of the Ski + Snowboard DTS from 2008. It’s been 3 years since I led that school at the YWAM Oxford NZ base. It was a very special school, and God did miraculous transformation in all of us. One of the students had the brilliant idea of starting an email chain between all the staff and students of that school asking each of us to share what has happened in our lives over the past 3 years since the school ended, so that we can all hear detailed accounts of what we’ve been up to and what God’s done in our lives. I’ve been amazed how almost every single person has written and shared very openly. I just finished writing my email letter and thought I might as well post it on my website, for those of you who want to hear an account of the past 3 years of my life. ~Ali

We all look funny when we stare at computers :)

This isn’t short, but it’s my heart laid open for all of you. So here we go : )

Time has flown! Has it really been 3 years since SDTS ’08? It’s so hard to believe! But life, as we know it, ticks on and keeps moving. I’m 32 now! Wowee! But I can tell you that my 30’s have held more dignity, grace and flow than my 20’s and 10’s and 0’s. So you all have something to look forward to, truly. Don’t freak out about the big 3-0. Trust me, it’s good.

After SDTS ’08 wrapped up, I had a Kiwi summer Christmas with Gretchen, Olivia, Rosie, myself and the lovely Inch family! We made fancy schmancy designer Christmas trees and desserts. So fun but still haven’t gotten used to a hot Christmas. Santa in stubbies and jandals lounging on the beach? No, that’s just odd. Continue Reading

Blog, Get To Know Me

The following is a list of 100 things about me. Let’s call it the story of  “Alison-in-a-nutshell”. It may get updated from time to time but in general these are timeless facts from my life.

Big brother Brian protecting his lil sis, Alison

 

1. My name is Alison. Alison means “truthful one” or “teller of truth” or “of sacred fame”

2. This name suits me. I love the truth. I’m not very good at lying!

3. My middle name is after my Gramma (my mum’s mother). I had a very strong, capable grandmother. She passed away in 2008.

With my grandmother at our cottage in the summers

4. I love people’s names, and finding out their meanings, and how it often determines the calling on people’s lives. You should go find out what your name means and ask your parents why they gave you your name. It’s a good thing to know!

5. I used to be ashamed of my last name as a kid because people would make animal “baa baa” noises.

6. I now like my last name because it is short and sweet. Easy to write. And “baa baa” noises make me laugh now. It’s actually one of my nicknames “Ali Baa Baa”.

7. I’m half Chinese (Dad’s side) and half Scottish/English ETC (Mum’s side – and emphasize the “ETC” part). I love my mixed background, being a “half breed” of sorts. I feel connected to “the nations” (east and west).

8. Growing up, we were made fun of for being different, called “Chink” or “Lambchop”… All I wanted was to be like everyone else… Now that I’m older, I embrace and *LOVE* being different. Funny how our perspectives can so drastically change through the years (praise God for this).

Family Cottage Time

9. As a kid, I had a theory about age. I declared “26” the Age of Adulthood. 25 and below, you were still a “guy” or a “gal”, but INSTANTLY, at 26, you became a “man” or a “woman”. It’s now being proven scientifically and culturally to be true!

10. I snort when I laugh deeply. Yup, I think it’s because God blesses some people with an extra body part called “the snort gland” and my family has it!

11. I have quite an interesting quirky family (understatement)

12. My parents have split up multiple times throughout my life. Mostly separations, two divorces (from each other), and two marriages (to each other), followed by further separations. Currently, they are separated.

13. This has become a normal part of my life, but by the grace of God, I somehow have found a place of stability amidst the turmoil. You learn not to put your security and stability in your family being functional or not. God can work with all types of families. And I have a special love for my unique family now.

14. At present, my mother and my father and my older brother are all Catholics. They converted from protestants to the Catholic church. It’s been an interesting journey to observe and experience. I did not become a Catholic but I have much respect for Catholicism. My older brother is a poet, writer and somewhat like a “monk of the heart”. My younger brother is  married to a beautiful Korean woman and they have a delightful little daughter!

My brothers and I in Korea back in 2007

15. I have 2 brothers. One is 2 yrs older and one is 2 yrs younger. My brothers are so different but so special. I have the best brothers in the world. I like being the only sister, tucked in the middle :)

16. I became an Auntie in October 2009!!! She is a lil darling! She is growing up too fast!

My beautiful niece!

17. I did/do have a sister. She was miscarried before either 3 of us were born, so I’ll meet her in heaven.

18. The funny thing is that I’ve always pictured her to be 100% Caucasian (weird how our brain can do illogical things).

19. I often ponder what Eternity will be like with my Saviour! Streets of gold, mansions, a huge throne for my King of Kings, and I get to explore the universe with Him forever!

20. The ultimate thing I’d love to do with God in Eternity is whisk Him away on a private adventure of the universe and go on an “outer space flying jetski/seadoo/motorcycle” and race around the universe exploring all the cool sights and have Him describe each place to me. And hog God for some time, so everyone will be waiting for His return to the throne, and I get to say that I got to have Him to myself for a private adventure. Yes, Lord, yes! Come and venture with me!

21. I was obsessed with horses in my younger years. I still love them, but the ‘obsession’ part isn’t there. I love to identify with Christ in the Book of Revelation (especially Chapter 19), riding in on a white horse on the clouds with an army of warriors following on white horses. He is the rider called Faithful and True. What a glorious thought!

22. As a young girl, all I wanted to be was a professional horse trainer or rider in the Olympics, and own a horse stable. But then I thought I’d be an equine vet (for horses). Then I thought I’d be an Architect. Or an Interior Designer/Decorator. Then just an Artist/Painter. I am not doing any of those professionally. I still like to do some as hobbies. I’ve got some of my Art + Design stuff here.

23. I also figure skated as a child, and though I don’t figure skate now except recreationally, I adore watching figure skating on TV, especially Ice Dance. It is a beautiful, moving form of art to watch.

24. I have tonnes of tapes of skating shows and competitions from TV. Boxes of ’em in storage. Hopefully, one day I can share them with my daughter or son (if I have children).

Segwun – this steamboat is in many of my childhood cottage memories

25. I also played a lot of baseball as a kid.

26. I was so good, in fact, (in my dad’s opinion) that I got the nickname “Ali-MAR” (aka Roberto “Alomar”, back in the Blue Jay’s World Series days in the early ’90’s…)

27. This always embarrassed me at the baseball games as he yelled out “Ali-MAR! Ali-MAR!” (Really loud and really pronounced. Yup. That’s my Dad)

28. But secretly I was flattered by the comparison.

29. I also had a bad knee as a kid.

30. But many times I was actually faking the severity of the knee injury because I just didn’t want to compete in certain horse shows or track and field events at school. The things we do in our youth… Sigh.

31. I also sprained my ankle when I was in Grade 5 and I was so proud to have crutches. I felt cool.

32. The novelty soon wore off as my ARMPITS did not take to crutches so well. OwWwWw! No one told me that crutches are actually NOT COOL AT ALL!

33. As a child, I didn’t know that tuna was a fish. I thought they were flakes that floated in the ocean, and nets scooped the flakes up and canned ’em. True story.

34. I think I must have thought the same thing for canned salmon, and got confused when they said there were bones in the salmon cans. Huh?!

I love my family. We seem to tan easily!

35. My first official kiss was at the age of 19 in my first week of my first year of college.

36. It was also the first time I’d ever gotten really drunk (this was in my pre-Christ days).

37. I found out from the guy many years after graduating college that he didn’t even remember this event. What a rip off. What a forgettable moment!

38. Everyone, for the record, I don’t recommend this approach. What a waste of a first kiss. But God redeems our mess-ups and sets us up for something so much more beautiful if we wait for His divine set up!

39. I grew up in a conservative Baptist Church as a child until the age of 15.

40. I remember thinking as a kid that if you didn’t go to church on Sunday morning AND Sunday evening that you were a bad Christian.

41. I don’t hold this view anymore about “2x on Sunday = good Christian”… but I love to dwell in the house of the Lord. His presence is ADDICTING.

Mommy and daughter, the best of friends

42. I sang in the kid’s choir as a child and I was so proud to wear the choir gowns. I thought I was SO cool with it on. Oh funny memory :)

43. People told me “You have perfect pitch, Alison” (I was proud of this. My brother never lets me live this down to this day. He teases me. I ignore him.)

44. I would say I have a good voice. I can hold a tune.

45. I love to harmonize. Singing on a worship team is one of my favourite things to do. It’s exhilarating. I love simple, spontaneous acoustic worship jam sessions around a fire, or in a home, or out under the stars, with random percussion acoustic guitars and people who actually will sing out and not stay silent. Beautiful.

46. I started playing guitar when I was 20 (in Africa!) but I’m certainly not a pro, but I can do the basics and get by. I think it is a beautiful looking instrument as well. I own a French-Canadian made “Seagull” guitar which has a lovely non-twangy rich deep sound.

47. I think that a guy who can sing, play guitar, and write music is a very nice guy indeed. But if you fit into this category I’ve just mentioned, don’t get too confident :) You gotta earn my respect :)

48. I’m a hopeless romantic. I can’t seem to watch a movie or read a book unless there is some romantic story line built into the plot. I think God formed me with a romantic heart (maybe because HE is the ultimate Romancer and Lover? I think so!)

49. I’d love to be married. I would love to have children. Biological as well as adopted, Lord-willing.  A redemptive tribe brought together to bring glory to God – it would be an amazing gift.

50. I am single and lead what I believe is a simple, wholesome lifestyle marked by integrity and wholeness of heart (by the grace of God). I embrace my singleness because I’ve been available to the Lord and have had the most amazing adventures with God. But I wouldn’t mind my status changing, that’s for sure!

51. Sometimes I enjoy my singleness and solitude too much. I often wonder what it would be like to have to blend 2 lives into 1… Could be both glorious and challenging, I reckon.

52. I used to sit for hours and make up kids’ names when I was growing up. I love the meanings of names too. I think they are significant. I’ve kept those lists to this day, stored away somewhere in Canada.

53. As a kid, I declared I’d be married at 19. I was way off. WAY OFF! I’m into my mid 30’s now! Wowza! I write about my love life over the years here.

54. I’ve just had 1 boyfriend in my life back in 2006. That was a learning experience and a half. Everyone, I recommend you not take the reins and try and make something happen. God’s gotta be in it, and leading and guiding it, or it ends in quite devastating heart ache. God is the divine orchestrator, and I have learned that full well.

55. I would love to learn another language. I know quite a bit of French from learning it in school in Canada, but I wouldn’t say I’m fluent. I have gathered up bits and pieces of multiple languages in my world travels the past few years, but what a cool thing it would to truly be able to communicate with others in their mother tongue! This is definitely on my bucket list of things to accomplish in my lifetime. Maybe even TWO more languages. Eek, did I just say that?

56. I’ve always liked people with accents. Ever since I was a little girl. I always wished I had an accent myself (non-North American accent). But either way, I just think languages and accents are cool.

57. My hair is jet black and I have tonnes of it. It’s both wavy and straight and my eyes are brown. Now that I’m in my mid 30’s I’ve got a few little white hairs popping up here and there. I would say it’s just ‘wisdom’ sneaking in there ;)

58. I think my eyes and smile are my best features. But when you get me laughing, I also snort. And I’ve heard rumours resounding throughout the globe that my snort is definitely very nice indeed ;)

59. I am a total dork. I’m quirky and unique and silly and I’m not ashamed of it. More people need to catch the contagious joy. Life is too short not to enjoy it in all its silly splendor!

60. I’ve never wanted to be anyone else.

61. But I didn’t always like myself like I do now.

I am pirate. Hear me Rrrrr!

62. I’ve struggled with self-image issues and I used to hide in baggy clothes in my teen years.

63. I would say I started to feel transformed in my thinking and fashion/style around the age of 17 or so… but especially when I was 19 and headed off to college… and I found a depth of confidence through my 20’s and 30’s. It’s a journey for a woman…

64. I used to have a phobia of photos (of myself).

65. It’s been a long journey, but photos of myself do not scare me anymore. I’ve learned not to reject myself, by God’s grace.

66. I don’t mind hearing my voice on answering machines or recordings anymore, either. Is it just me, or do you first balk when you hear your voice on recordings, thinking, “I sound like THAT?! Weird! THAT’S what other people hear all the time when I talk???!!”

67. I love to encourage, inspire, motivate, disciple, counsel and challenge people, especially young adults!  But it’s spanning to all different ages, younger and older. I just love people :)

68. I’ve collected thousands of inspirational quotes throughout my life. It’s a passion of mine. Probably why I like twitter so much. I use it to share some of my own as well as to get inspirational one-liners from people to inspire me throughout the day.

69. I also like to make greeting cards or creative notes to encourage people. We need daily encouragement.

70. I also like to watch YouTube vlogs. I don’t know why I enjoy it so much. Casey Neistat, Mr. Ben Brown and Fun for Louis are my 3 favourites.

71. I made up a secret language with one of my friends when we were youth… I also made up a secret language with my cousins back in Africa. Hehehe…

72. “High 5 Mr Richmond” is a classic song from Grade 7 (about 12 yrs old) that I made up with a friend. (Ask me to sing it sometime. It’ll rock your world haha). We were cheeseballs.

Childhood friends like sisters. Hardcore Rankin Fans

73. There’s never been more hardcore Rankin Family music fans than us. We were FIERCE.

74. We also made up a version of Romeo and Juliet (we’ve got it on audio tape somewhere in storage in Canada). It KILLS the original “real” version, hands down.

75. On another note, I went off to college in 1999 for Graphic Design in Oshawa, Ontario.

76. I wanted to quit in 2nd year, but persevered and graduated in 2001 with my diploma.

77. After just 3 months in the field of Graphic Design/Advertising, I left it because I had no desire to ‘advertise the world’… and haven’t done any ‘real’ graphic design work since (except my own personal creative media projects.)

78. I even registered a business called “Live Creative” in 2004 and took a business course then and it was going to be for my own inspirational greeting cards and other creative elements for the home. I closed the business before ever really pursuing it, as I am pursuing mission and ministry stuff and I will see if the Lord opens up business doors in the future flowing out of mission/ministry first. It’s still always in the back of my mind.

79. Way back when I was 15, when my parents split up, I left the church and worshiped horses instead…

80. I came back to the Lord in a radical divine experience in Uganda in 1999 (age 20) after my first year of college (the wild year). Read the full story of this divine encounter which I call My Salvation Testimony

81. Before this, I was into self-help, new age stuff, one-with-nature philosophies… I never wanted to step foot in a church building again… Now the church (the house of God) is one of my favourite places on earth.

82. I went away to Uganda in 1999 to visit my Aunt, Uncle and cousins, who were missionaries there. The reason I went was to get away from life in Canada and to go on an adventure. NOT to find God. I thought, “I can play the religious game”…

83. God had other plans.

84. I’ve never been the same since. God intervened divinely and pursued me all the way over in Africa… If you haven’t read the full story, here’s another chance!

85.I got baptized when I was 20, and baptized in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, in a prayer walk one day about 6 months after I’d returned to Canada.

86. To be honest, I’ve thought a couple Christian guys were “the one”.

87. They weren’t. (If you want to read about my love life, I wrote the story here: ‘Your Love Life: When reality looks nothing like your expectations’)

88. I started writing poetry mainly because of venting about issues going on in my heart… You can read some of it here.

89. I also love blogging and journaling. I’ve kept a personal journal since I was 12 years old (that’s almost 2 decades of journals in my treasure chest) and I’ve blogged since about 2004.  The original blog is here and the current blog is here.

90. I love to read. I usually have a pile of a million books at my bedside table that I’m trying to conquer (often at the same time, haha). I love to highlight books (only the ones I own, of course). I love collecting mini quotes and tidbits of wisdom from books I read. Sometimes I type out (or write out on scrap paper) practically the whole book because I find it so inspirational! I love to tweet a lot of these quotes from my reading.

91. I love interior decoration. I just love making houses into homes and making plain things into beautiful things. In high school, I thought that I’d pursue it as a career, but decided that it would just be an enjoyable hobby. Can’t wait to own a home one day (God-willing) and restore it, and decorate it!

92. I love fuscia and pink a LOT. I just like vibrant colours that bring life and joy. I am not a dull person. I don’t live a dull life. I don’t tend to spend a lot of time with dull and lifeless people.

93. I love chandelier dangly earrings at this season of my life. I also love putting a flower in my hair (as I learned in Hawaii!). I have a list of My Favourite Things if you want to know more! Check it out if you’re curious!

94. I have an amazing divine story of how God transformed me through my 20’s and led me into missions and ministry. You can read My Mission Story here.

95. I’d love to write a book one day, using my love of inspirational quotes, and using excerpts from my personal journals, and things God has taught me over the years.

96. I’d also love to sing in a folk/rock indie band and write more songs and get guitar lessons.

97. I’d love to eventually adopt a child one day, especially from Asia. So many abandoned girls that need a family to love and adore them and introduce them to their Heavenly Father who loves them.

98. I believe I had an out-of-body spiritual experience in Asia back in 2006. It’s a crazy cool story. I’ve written about My Out-of-Body Experience here.

99. I had a cat named “Kiwi” but I gave her to my Dad since I left Canada to do missions work. I think it is providential how she got that name and how I ended up living so many years in New Zealand. I named her in 2005 before I went to Hawaii. I wanted to call her a Hawaiian name, but she didn’t look like any Hawaiian names so I chose “Kiwi” because her eyes looked like green kiwi fruit. This was before New Zealand was EVER on the radar. Who would ever have known that God would call me to live in New Zealand for many years, which is the land of the Kiwi (bird, fruit, nickname for New Zealanders, etc). God is cool :) He’s such a detailed, wondrous God!

100. The word for “bye” in Alison Lingo (created when I was child, just to put this into perspective) is “Bubaloo” (pronounced “BUH-buh-LOO”)

THE END

P.S. Here’s one last detail…

101. The extended real Childhood Alison Version for Goodbye is… “Bubaloo Chikachoo Chicka Choo Choo Choo” (Hope you try and say it out loud, and then I also hope that there’ll be a person nearby who will have overheard you and will think you’re crazy. GOOD. Crazy’s good.

Oh! One more!

102. And YES, I’m well aware of my complexities and oddities, and my tendency towards intensity. I’m definitely not shallow, nor am I boring.

And

103. I have to say that until I crashed in my 30’s, undergoing a deep spiritual heart transformation and transition, I didn’t realize that my entire life is about the Fatherheart of God and of walking in sonship with Him. It has completely transformed my life and I know that it is a life message. A core foundational message of which my life is defined by now. Fatherheart Ministries was the path that led me to this deep deep reconciliation with God in this way.