Vibes Schmibes

I have a friend who is into vibes. Really into those vibes. She sends happy vibes, positive vibes, affirming vibes, shining vibes into the universe all the time. She sends them my way (I kind of wonder how that is actually done) and she instructs her social media followers to send similar vibes in all sorts of different directions. Her world is a vibey place.

 

Along with that she is all about speaking things into the universe. She believes that when we speak positively and throw things out into the great unknown, the universe will hear us and bless us. The universe is just waiting for us to name and claim things and once we let the universe know that we really want good and happy things— they will happen. It’s magic!

 

Now, I know that this happy positive vibey universe engaging philosophy is a weak kind of “religion” and I know that blessings are from God and not from the universe and it doesn’t matter how much we implore mother nature for sunshine, God controls everything… but what about the power of positive thinking?

 

You see– it’s been a weird year for me and it’s been a year where at times I have not been feeling very positive or deliriously happy or able to hold onto the belief that good things are comin my way. I spent a lot of time fighting for the ability to be okay. Some days that was easier than other days.

 

BUT THEN — I suddenly felt like things were changing. Dark clouds were clearing. I was feeling happier, lighter, healthier. And the thing is– it wasn’t because of all the vibes people were sending me, it was because God was teaching me some big things. It wasn’t about my flinging the dreams into the universe, it was about me trusting God completely and me finding joy in the act of doing so. It was about me finally being able to truly and fully believe that God is good and God is for me. That’s what filled me up and that’s what made me smile and that’s what gave me true joy. So yes, the world is right when it recognizes that seemingly positive people seem to attract good things but it’s dead wrong when it comes to understanding why. So I will never send positive vibes your way, but I will pray that whatever you’re going through, you will be able to “consider it all joy” as you trust in our great God to bring you through whatever it is you’re facing in the days ahead.

Home.

“You can never go home again”

They say that once you have left a place, you can never return. Once you’ve left home, nothing will be the same… that includes you. Social media is littered with posts about the things you learn living abroad, why you’ve changed once you’ve been overseas, how your life is so different, your perspectives so altered, how you will NEVER fit back into your pre-experience life. I am guilty of posting such articles too and I have found comfort in knowing that I’m not alone on this expat adventure. It’s fun to be part of a semi-if-not-entirely-self-proclaimed special group of people but… I’m tired now.

Because in all of my travels, all of my overseas experiences, all of my attempts to make and create a “sense” of home miles and oceans away from my original one, I have come to see that for me, my first home is where I want to be.

I have been blessed to meet people who were my temporary “family”. I have lived in nice places that I have called “home”. I have worked on blending into a new country that I can call my “land” but… I miss the original.

Because you see– through all my travels I think I’ve realized the other cliche truth that you can go around the world and realize that the thing you want most was there all along.

Because I want to feel like I belong somewhere. Being a foreigner is fun and exciting and makes you automatically quite interesting. You can get away with things by playing the “Dumb foreigner card” and you can get extra perks because “you’re new here”. But I’m tired of standing out, I’m tired of not being entirely sure what is going on around me and I’m tired of feeling like I don’t belong. I’m looking forward to being in a place where I do belong and am accepted.

Because I want to be close to MY people. There is something thrilling about meeting people and realizing that they only know the you that you have been since you moved to that country. You can reinvent yourself, you can change as much about yourself as you want, you can choose to leave out huge chunks of your life when you’re telling stories BUT there is something so wonderful to be around people who have always known you. People who know your family and where you came from. People who “get” you and love you no matter what. People who remember your mid-nineties obsession with all things denim and still talk to you. I have been fortunate enough to find myself in some wonderful communities and I have made some incredible friends but it’s time to go back to my roots because I really miss the people who really know me.

Because I want to be part of “every day” life with my family. I am really close with my family and I have enjoyed our intense bursts of time together during the summers and Christmas time but I want to be able to spend random Thursday nights with them or Sunday lunches. I want to be able to just go for coffee with my sister or walks with my parents during crazy times like… October or April. I’m tired of missing out on the every day stuff. I think I’m kind of homesick for the mundane.

I feel truly blessed for the last 10 years, for the amazing relationships/friendships I’ve had, for the experiences I’ve been part of, for the things I’ve seen and the places I’ve been. I am quite aware that most of the memories I take with me will be rose-coloured and I know that once I’m settled into life back home, I’ll miss these places like crazy. But I also have an ache for all things Canada and for now, that’s where I want to be.

I know I have changed a lot during the past 10 years. I know that people and circumstances at home have changed too. That’s life. I know that things will not be exactly the same as when I lived there 10 years ago but that’s okay.. and actually for the better. I’m excited to “start over again” in a familiar place.

So maybe it’s true that you can never go home again– but I’m going to try.

Summer Summer Summer Time

Summer in Canada is coming to an end.. *sigh*. I’ve been home for nearly two months.. well two months minus two days and I really can’t believe how quickly time has flown. It’s been a great summer and I’m sad that it’s ending but I am somewhat looking forward to getting back to doing “that thing I do” and into a routine and all that jazz.

So just because I feel like telling you. Here are my Summer Highlights:

New York City – I got to see New York for the first time ever and totally see what all the fuss is about. My friend and I had a blast. We stayed in this sweet apartment/hotel on the Upper East Side and took the city by storm. Lots of sight-seeing, show-seeing, cafe-eating and meandering throughout the city. I would say some of my favourite things were: Seeing Idina Menzel in If/Then, Central Park, Comedy Clubs, going to the top of the Rockefeller Centre as the sun was setting and then having drinks at the bar below, The High Line park. Realized very soon into the trip that there is no possible way that we could see half of the things we wanted to see and so we just have to go back! 

The Workshop in Toronto – I had the chance to go to a workshop on teaching poetry at a fancy school in Toronto. Geek right? Anyway it was one of the highlights of my summer for sure. I had the chance to meet some really cool people, learn a lot about my own teaching, and meet the most amazing workshop leader. She totally inspired me and encouraged me and I kind of feel like I met the teacher I never had. Also– I ended up bringing my mom with me and we had a great time when I wasn’t in the workshop. Really nice to hang out together and wander the streets of Toronto. Went to a Blue Jays game too! I really saw the city through new eyes and think it’s just a great place!

Chicago! – My sister and I went to Chicago mainly for the Sara Bareilles concert but also to see the sights. It was my first time there as well. What a city! So different from New York but so incredible as well. We stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel right in the middle of things. Loved the Architecture Tour by boat, the eating and shopping, and of course Sara Bareilles was mind-blowing! One of the best concerts I’ve seen in ages and ages. 

The Cottage – A family friend lent us a cottage for a week along Lake Erie. It was perfect. Comfortable and beautiful. So nice to hang out with my sister and parents. Lots of walking, a bit of swimming, tons of reading, and just an overall lovely time. I also went “offline” that week which was a very good and healthy experience. I’ll write more about that sometime later. 

So I took some trips and between those I had a great time catching up with friends. Dinners and coffees and lots of big chats. Really a great time connecting with friends. There is something so refreshing when it comes to hanging out with people who have known me longer than 10 years. It’s nice to be back with “my people”. I also really enjoyed lots of good family time, some beach days and just general enjoying being back in my Home and Native Land. 

And so I go back to Japan and while I leave with a sad heart, I also leave with a happy heart. 

Winnie the Pooh says it best:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”

Notes on my Saturday night

Last night was weird.

I went out with a few friends to a Christmas concert and then we all ended up going for food. That part was great. It is rare that I’m with a group of just Canadians and we took advantage of that and cracked each other up with memories from our childhoods… trying to cut the bag of milk properly (who tried to open this like this???), the angst of realizing you hadn’t pulled your socks up properly once your feet were crammed into your winter boots,  the horror of dreaming that you fell through the ice (seriously, I think only Canadians dream this) and other funny things from a Canadian childhood… Then we switched locations, lost some of our group and picked up two other people.

One  of the people we were with last night turned out to be an Atheist and so it came up that I am indeed a Christian. He was very proud of the fact that he went from being a Christian to years as an agnostic and now is extremely happy and enlightened as an atheist. He wanted to debate and talk and explain himself. I listened. I answered back politely. I held my own. I think the others were rather impressed that I didn’t crumble. Granted I was praying hard in my head the whole time. Anyway it was fine to speak about logic and reason and those sorts of things but then he said: “How can you believe in something you can’t actually see?”

I said, “Just look around…” And he went mental. He started accusing me of being awful for accusing him of having no ability to see things or understand science.. etc etc. Anyway eventually he calmed down and we continued but I was exhausted. I don’t like debates. I’m not turned on by battling my thoughts and ideas. I think because so much of my faith is so entirely personal. It is about relationship… which he obviously didn’t understand. It was interesting that reason and logic were the things he stood behind. Add emotion and the personal element and he couldn’t handle it. The conversation eventually came to a place where he claimed loudly that as an atheist he would have no problem dating me but obviously, I’m not that open minded. I smiled.

Later this guy’s friend started to question me about how come I couldn’t date someone who didn’t share my beliefs. I explained that I have tried it and it wasn’t all bad but when it comes down to the nitty gritty why wouldn’t I want to share the same beliefs with the love of my life? It’s hard having conversations about this with someone who doesn’t believe. It’s really hard to say to someone that no matter how great they are and how much we have in common, if we don’t share the same faith we will never be complete as a couple.

Anyway it was all good conversation, we are all still friends, I think I held my own and it was actually nice to see what I say when asked hard questions. It did however, make me appreciate the conversations that I have with fellow believers and inspired me to brush up on my apologetics.

And now I’m looking at less than a week until I’m back in Canada with my people!

 

The Power of Love

And no, this is not about a Celine Dion song…

As I’ve mentioned before, my family is going through a pretty trying set of circumstances. I would have to say that this is probably the first really big thing we’ve had to deal with. Due to the fact that my father is a pastor, I’ve seen a lot of people go through painful circumstances but they have not directly touched me in the way that this situation has.

I have written about how I have people around me and how God has been good to me through all of it so far. I have talked about how I have good people here and at home and that has been such a blessing.

Being so far away (but not for long), adds a certain amount of extra stress. It’s quite easy to feel rather removed from the whole thing but that’s just the bad part about living overseas. I’m not complaining and honestly, with Skype and email and Viber and Whatsapp and iMessage and Facebook, I really don’t feel THAT far away but truthfully there are times that I feel alone and just want to be home.

What has been amazing is the amount of love I’ve received. Lots and lots of thoughtful emails and kind words and different people expressing genuine concern, I know that I’m not alone.

What I have learned is how helpful it is for me to know that people do love me. People can’t fix this situation, they can’t make it better but they can tell me that they are praying for me or thinking about me and that they do love me. And knowing that, helps me feel a little less alone.

Love is a powerful thing. I didn’t really realize that until just recently. To know you’re loved is its own sort of cure. I read over and over again about God’s steadfast love for us. I think it’s mentioned in nearly every Psalm. If I had a concordance I’d let you know for sure. What I do know though is that it’s important to know that such love exists.

And so, I think about all the things I have been learning through this trying time and I try to write it down so I’ll remember it in the future, whether that be on this blog or elsewhere. The next time one of my friends is going through something difficult, I’ll remember to tell them how much I love them. It is so meaningful to know that I am surrounded by love and that despite the dark times, love is present and love wins.

You don’t have to fix the big problems.

You don’t need to say the perfect words.

You don’t need to remove all the pain and sadness.

You just need to let the person know they are loved.

It often takes very little to convey that feeling but it means the world to the people receiving it. And so, all through these sad times, I know that there is still love.

My One Year Runniversary

A year ago, I ran my first ever 10K but this post isn’t really about that…

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Around kilometre 19 of my first half marathon (3 weeks ago) I really considered packing the whole running thing in and never putting on my running shoes again. I regained a bit of oomf and made it to the finish but I must say that a part of me left my runner’s heart back there at Kilometre 19.

After surviving my first half I really had problems getting back into running. I took some days off (mainly because I could hardly walk) and tried to stretch and pep talk myself back into wanting to run again. It was tricky. I went for three measly runs, varying in unimpressive lengths.. 3km, 5km, 6.5 km. Each run feeling sluggish and pretty darn awful. I wondered if I’d ever get my groove back.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I checked the weather hoping for rain. I did not want to run the charity 10K that I had signed up for months ago. But I had friends there and I knew I probably should. You can just quit after 5K, I told myself and that was my secret plan.

I got to the Registration table, got my number and free t-shirt and proceeded to psych myself up. I would be able to do it. I could talk myself into it. Actually, once I got going It wasn’t very hard at all. It was a completely beautiful day! Bright sun, blue skies, warm but not too hot. My friends were all in high spirits and it just felt like a good day.

And so I started to run… I decided to use my trusty 10/1 interval medley and off I went. And you know what? It felt great! It was fun! My pace was consistent and I felt strong. I remembered and appreciated all of the energy during races and loved being part of the whole thing. I had friends waiting for me at the finish and cheering me on and that’s just a great feeling!

I had told myself that I’d just run for fun and hopefully not be too much longer than an hour but I finished in 57 minutes which I’m happy about. But what I’m really happy about is what happened somewhere around Kilometre 7: I started to love running again!

Just Another (Valentine’s) Day

vdayWhen I’m single I tend to like making disparaging yet somewhat comical comments about Valentine’s Day. Yes, while calling it the semi-bitter name of Singles Awareness Day or referring to it as just another Hallmark holiday.. I can joke about dying alone and the cobwebs on my womb and I can talk about life solo with the best of em but honestly, deep down, I really wish I had a date. And I’m going to go out on a limb here to say that I’m not alone in this.

So what does one do on February 14th while the whole world is sitting at tables for two? Besides shoveling handfuls of cinnamon hearts into our mouths and buying valentine’s chocolates for ourselves.. drinking a little too much wine and complaining to our single girlfriends about how all the guys we know are losers or too short.. how do we honestly handle this day?

I think we put on our brave faces. I think we strive to fight bitterness, disparaging comments and self-deprecating ideas about why we are dateless on V day.

It’s one day. 

I think this day is one where the strong single girl mindset is very important. Yes, we are single. No, we don’t have a date and maybe there are no immediate prospects. Yes, it’s sad and yes it’s a bit scary. Yes, it’s easy to be jealous of people in other situations BUT.. why waste energy thinking like that? The fact is, we serve a good God. If we’re meant to be with someone, He will bring him to us when we’re ready or when he’s ready. He’s the author of time and so His timing is perfect. We MUST remember this. And so if we’re to go through another Valentine’s Day alone.. so be it.

I am particularly trying to be mindful of my attitude about Valentine’s Day because I work at an all girl’s school. It is very easy to start murmuring depressing things about how there are no good men in Japan, I’m going to be the weird crazy aunt, how many cats is too many cats (the correct answer is 1) and so on. But my students have ears and they are watching me. Most of them know that I’m single too and I must show them that it’s really not that bad. They need to see what contentment in circumstances looks like and that finding a man is not the key to happiness.

But how do I actually do this? How do I adopt some form of happiness in this situation? Well, it’s quite simple: I look at the love I have in my life now. I do believe that God is so good when it comes to giving us what we need when we need it. True, I may not have a guy paying for dinner but I have an incredible family, some amazing friends, I have some great colleagues, I teach some awesome girls and my life is pretty full. I must not waste time thinking about what I don’t have when I have so much to be thankful for. I may not have a man-friend but I do have a lot of love around me.

Another thing that I’ve been thinking about is how I think about myself way too much. How am I going to feel on Valentine’s Day? Why am I alone? Why don’t I have a boyfriend? Why am I sad? Blah blah blah STOP IT! I remember going to my youth group at church as a high school student and having a particularly bad attitude and voicing some of my insecurities to my mom. She told me to stop thinking about myself so much and to approach the night with the idea of “how can I make sure s0-and-so has a good evening”? Those words have stuck with me. Of course, if I hang around thinking about how alone I am, I’m going to have reasons to indulge in an entire box of chocolates but if I shift my focus onto those around me, making sure others are feeling loved and esteemed and happy.. well.. we know how that goes!

Lastly, I will think about how I serve a God who is the definition of Love. The Bible endlessly speaks about His steadfast love, His undying love, His perfect love. Spend some time thinking about that.

We single ladies really have no reason to dread or feel sad on Valentine’s Day. So instead of wasting the day trying not to think about ex-boyfriends or missed opportunities or wondering what is wrong with us… let’s use it to celebrate the all the kinds of love we do have in our lives!