Her absence is like the sky

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
C.S. Lewis

Yesterday, we could say Tat was alive one year ago. Today, we can’t say that. I can hear our hearts breaking all over again.

Somehow it has been one whole year since she was last breathing in this world. The earth has orbited once again around the sun — and she was not here for any of it. Her wedding. Her birthday. Any ordinary Tuesday in between. 

Beautiful, bright-eyed, vibrant Tat — I miss her more than words can say. She always told me I was a writer, and yet there are not enough words in any language to explain the impact her absence keeps having. 

I still can’t believe she is gone. It feels as though I’m waiting for her to come home from a long trip, like those years ago when I waited for her to come back to Canada from Peru. I had a countdown on my phone — and it feels sort of like that, except there’s no date I can hold onto. I try to trick myself into believing that soon she will return, and we will laugh, and this whole cruel year will be over. It’s as if my mind isn’t quite convinced she’s truly gone. But then something happens and it hits me afresh. 

It might be a blog post she wrote, or her photo in my car, or a nightmare where I wake up crying. I read it or see it or have it, and then her death happens again.

She dies all over again, every single day. Every single time I remember. 

I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago in Prince Edward County and the actress on Gossip Girl who plays Vanessa was there. The actress said hi to me in the bathroom. Immediately, I went to text Tat. I couldn’t wait to tell her — she was going to freak out! I could picture the emojis she would send me, texting in ALL CAPS to ensure I understood her excitement. 

But before I pulled my phone from my bag, I remembered. I couldn’t text Tat about seeing Vanessa from Gossip Girl in a restaurant bathroom. I couldn’t text Tat again. 

The first time I met Tat, I knew there was something special about her. I’m not romanticizing her — I truly mean it. I’ve told her this before and I’ve told many others. I saw her, and something inside of me perked up. It was the Holy Spirit — kindly, gently, nudging me toward this kind 17-year-old girl. We were at camp. The first thing I noticed about her was how much I loved her name: Tat. It was simple and unique. One syllable, containing so much meaning. Names are important to me — but especially then, because I was in the middle of writing a novel. I remember thinking her name was perfect for a book. 

One night, I felt God prodding me to pour into Tat. That was the phrase I kept hearing: pour into her. A bit Christianese, but I took it seriously. I told God if He wanted me to truly love Tat — to encourage her, to pour into her, to pray for her, to check in on her, to care about her dreams and her family and her academics and her love life — then I would. But I asked God to give me a sign — if Tat asked me to pray for her that evening, then I would encourage her relentlessly. 

That night, Tat came up to me at campfire and said, “I feel like God wants you to pray for me.” 

Tears sprang into my eyes. I prayed for her — and I kept praying for years after that. 

I believed in Tat with a ferocity unlike one I’ve experienced before. I kindly forced her to send me her writing — she was such a good writer, and I always felt like someday I would hold her book in my hands. I am devastated to never read that book. 

I knew in the core of my being that she was going to do great things — and she did. Somehow, she still is. Her words, her spirit, and her love for people and for Jesus have undone me. She has carved a legacy without even realizing it. If only we could each have a fraction of her spirit. 

I am so grateful to God for the years He gifted me a friendship with Tat. A few nights ago, as I was crying thinking of her, I realized again the honour it was to love and be loved by her. 

I will always remember you, Tat. Your plaid shirt, your brown leather jacket, your long wild hair, your short bob when you chopped it off, your laugh, your voice when you sang Blank Space, your aloe vera plant, your black sandals, your nude heels you wore to church clacking down the hallway, your duct-taped car sitting in my parents driveway, your love of yellow heart emojis, and the way you always, always pointed me right back to Jesus. 

I miss you in a way I can’t comprehend and I wish I never had to write this. I love you, Tat. 

Love Aliza

 

The grief diary

Dear Tat,

I remember our last conversation clearly. It was the beginning of June, and even though it was warm out, you were wearing your brown leather jacket. Your hair was short, curly. Even though you’d tried to tame it, it remained untamed. I always liked that about your hair. It was as if your hair gave us a glimpse of your soul — wild at heart, and all that.

The last time we spoke I was holding my niece, Selah — she’d been alive for twelve days or so, and she was the source of my undivided attention. I was a bit enthralled by her. Had I known this conversation would be our last one on Earth, I would have put Selah down and focused solely on you. I would have memorized every inch of your face. I would have counted your eyelashes. I would have recorded our conversation so I could remember the way you said my name. But of course, I thought we had a thousand more conversations to come.

So instead I held my niece and only hugged you with one arm.

We talked about your secret engagement. We talked about how perfect Selah is. We talked about getting dinner when I returned home from London two months later.

“Come home with a British boyfriend,” you said.

“I’ll do my best,” I laughed.

You smiled. “See you.”

See you.

I worry this blog has become a grief diary of sorts. And yet writing down my feelings tends to be the only way I know to sort through them. Perhaps someday I’ll figure out how to sort through my feelings in a less messy manner. (Being an Enneagram Four, I somehow doubt this.)

So I carry on.

My sister gave me a bracelet for Christmas. It’s almost identical to the one Danielle and I gave you for your 18th birthday. It’s a brown leather band with a metal plate. She got it engraved, just like we’d done for yours.

Grace upon grace.

Now I feel as though I carry a little part of you with me wherever I go. That’s not true, of course. I know you are wholly and fully in Heaven with Jesus, but this bracelet reminds me of who you are. You encapsulated grace — a message I’m realizing I have never fully understood until now.

Tat, I have to tell you — I think somehow through your death I have come to understand Jesus’ kindness even more. When you died, I was made tender. The armour I once held so close was stripped from me. I could not carry both armour and grief. I felt stripped to nothing but a deep, crushing ache of sorrow. Jesus met me there. Over and over, he keeps meeting me in this sorrow.

Now I find myself thinking that nothing makes sense when I try and do it on my own. Individuality has always felt crucial to me. I wanted to make my mark on the world. We’ve talked about this dozens of times, Tat. I would always tell you, “I want to do something great.” I correlated greatness with individuality, with success, with being known. And now I feel like I am nothing on my own. I cling to the kindness of Jesus every moment of every day.

You did something great. You were always kind. You poured grace like a river. You did spectacular things — but it wasn’t what you did that people keep talking about. It’s who you are.

2018 will always hold our final conversation. I could throw up at the thought of that. Tomorrow marks a year in which I’ll never be able to talk to you.

I keep your picture on my desk.

I keep your picture in my car.

I keep this bracelet on my wrist.

And Jesus keeps meeting me, over and over and over again.

Like grace upon grace.

Happy birthday, Tat

December 2nd is coming. Each year I can feel it. This year I can feel it even more.

My Christmas art show was dedicated to my friend, Tat. We had a corner dubbed “Tat’s Collection” filled with prints and cards inspired by her life and her writing. When I got up to the front to tell the people at the art show about this new collection, I could hardly speak.

Shouldn’t she be here? I thought.

Around this time last year, Tat was helping me prepare for last year’s art show. She and her boyfriend at the time — now fiancé — Matthew, ran one of my cash tables. They held hands the whole night. I rolled my eyes at their public display, but she could not stop smiling.

On Saturday I walked into The Spice Factory to set up for the art show. It was the same place we held it last year. It took my breath away with the memories.

I stood and looked at the cash tables. I could see Tat, standing there, just like she had last year. She wore dark lipstick, and smiled at each person, speaking softly to them, wishing them a Merry Christmas.

I blinked and she was gone all over again.

__

Tat would turn 21 on Sunday.

December 2nd.

Her birthday is the same day my Grammy died. My Grammy died the same day Aaron Platzlu died. Tat and I were together in Peru when my Grammy and Aaron passed away. Aaron was one-day-old. I had never seen a casket so small.

It’s been three years since my Grammy and Aaron, three years since Tat hugged me and said, “I’m so sorry,” while I cried in the heat of South America before heading home to Grammy’s funeral. For three years, I have felt guilty for being in Peru that year instead of staying home to say goodbye to my grandmother. Now I am more grateful than ever for those six weeks with Tat.

My friend Danielle and I gave Tat a bracelet that year for her 18th birthday. We got it engraved. Grace upon grace. One of her favourite sayings.

__

I’ve been listening to Christmas music for a month now. Sometimes I think if I celebrate Christmas earlier, more hope will fill my heart. I keep ending up with melancholy Christmas songs on a loop. I skip Jingle Bells and listen to River over and over and over again.

Instead of the Christmas story, I find myself at the end of Matthew in my Bible. I read about the death of Jesus. I underline the section where Jesus calls Judas “friend”, even though he knows he’s about to betray him.

Today I read about the crown of thorns. Tomorrow I’ll read about his crucifixion.

And even though it’s almost December — even though mangers are more popular right now than crosses — I can’t help but find myself in the pages of the Bible filled with mourning and sadness.

I think about Jesus’ eyes. I don’t know why, but I often see them crying.

__

I keep crying, recently.

I cry when I pray. Sometimes my crying is my prayer.

I don’t know why. There are days where I’ll be driving — thinking of nothing in particular — and the next moment tears will be streaming down my face. I’ll look at the Christmas lights strung on the houses, and joy and sadness will fill my heart. They live together, side-by-side, within me.

I wept on Sunday when my niece and nephew were dedicated at church. I cried on Saturday night when I wished with all my heart that Tat could be at my art show. I even cried while watching a Hallmark movie.

I watch Hallmark movies because everything works out well in them. They end with Christmas kisses and snow falling. Even though they are the furthest thing from real life, I like them. “Let your heart be light,” and all that, even though these days my heart feels very heavy.

December 2nd is coming. A tender day to be sure — Aaron, and Grammy, and now, beautiful Tat.

__

Happy birthday, my friend. I miss you.

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A man who cried when his friend die

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I think one of the greatest misconceptions I have about Jesus is remembering he was fully human. I have no problem remembering that he’s fully God — the walking on water sort of solidified that for me — but I have trouble believing that during his time on Earth he felt every bit of human as I do on a regular basis.

Every bit? Every sharp shard of sadness? Every blush of embarrassment? Every rolling wave of grief — some nights so strong I tremble beneath my covers?

The rolling waves have been fiercer lately. Waves of confusion, of grief, and of deep, relentless gratitude. I wake up each morning and, for the most part, think, “I get to have another day here.”

It’s not that I’m afraid to die, because I’m not. I’m amped to see Jesus face-to-face, to feel the kind of embrace my small mind cannot currently fathom. I am excited to see Tat again. I think because of her I am more grateful for this life I have been given.

But even in the midst of this genuine gratitude, there is sorrow. Gratitude doesn’t cancel out pain. You can be grateful and still you can be sad.

I am astonished at how each day I can wake up struck by thanksgiving to be alive in a world so vibrant, and yet simultaneously devastated by the tragedy that seems to arrive to a new person each day.

On Monday as I drove to work, I was overcome by grief for all that is broken in the world. Grey clouds were my company on my hour long commute. The rain on my windshield were tears I did not have in me to cry. I mourned Tat’s death, but I mourned more than that. I mourned sexual assault and divorce and cancer. I mourned political division and car accidents and broken dreams.

I mourned Tat’s children who will never be born.

I arrived at work, walked into the newsroom, and saw bad news being broadcast on every screen in the building.

And then, I thought of Jesus. Although when Jesus walked on the Earth he didn’t experience the 24-hour news cycle, he saw deep brokenness everyday. Far more than I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how he could stand it. Every other minute another person was begging him to come — to awaken their dead daughter, or touch their blind eyes, or to stop the decade of bleeding within them. Jesus wasn’t a journalist, and yet he encountered far more stories of sadness than I will ever encounter.

So I remember him. I remember him — not just as the Son of God — but as human Jesus. As Jesus who felt compassion and anger and sadness.

As the Jesus whose friend died. He knows this sorrow. He knows this pain. He loved someone and then they died. His tears must have felt a lot like mine. Hot, burning, and streaming at the most unwelcome times.

If he was fully human, then he knows just how I feel.

The best part of this equation is that he was fully human so he knows how I feel, but he’s fully God so he knows how to comfort.

So now, when I think about Jesus, not only do I think about the God I love, but I think about the man he who understands me.

A man who felt cold rain on his shoulders when the skies opened.

A man with skin that scraped when he fell.

A man who cried when his friend died.

The day my friend saw Jesus

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I was on the plane home from London, England on August 17. I was there for most of the summer — six weeks for an internship with CBC, and another week with my best friend, Sarah, to spend some time in London and Paris.

On the plane home, I felt as if I were on a precipice, overlooking an expanse of something I’d never seen. It was, by far and away, one of the most transformative summers of my life. I encountered God in ways I never had before. I was with him in Hyde Park, or on the tube, or when I picked up a latte from the coffee cart across the street from my office. Each day I woke and wondered aloud, “What plans do you have for us today, Jesus?” and each day it seemed as though he revealed something new.

I was nervous to go home — feeling as if London might be the only place I could possibly encounter Jesus in this fresh way. Hamilton represented familiarity to me, and although I was longing to hold my sister’s precious babies again, I was scared to lose this new part of me I had cultivated in England. I liked the Aliza I was there. I didn’t want to lose her.

When Sarah and I walked out of Pearson airport, sadness settled within my soul. I missed London already.

I greeted my family with exuberance, happily bathing Noah and Selah with attention, kisses, and an overabundance of gifts. I missed so many people while I was gone.

We spent the next hour catching up. They told me about my Nana’s funeral, and I told them about the stories I covered. I was exhausted from jet lag, but I didn’t care. My niece had grown so much; I did not want to let her go.

I was holding Selah when my dad rounded the corner, his phone in his hand. His expression was one I hadn’t seen before.

“I think Tat’s been killed,” he said.

“What?” My mom, sister, and I all turned toward him.

“I think she’s been in a car accident,” he said, looking down at his phone. Tat Blackburn was my friend first, but over the past few years she got to know each person in my family well. We all loved her.

“What?” I said again. I stood up. My face was wet.

The baby was crying too. Olivia said, “Here, let me take her.”

I realized I was squeezing onto her too tight. I gave my niece to my sister. When she was released from my arms, I wished I had something else to hold. I sat down again.

Tat was engaged, and my family is friends with her marriage counsellor. Their counsellor was the one who texted my dad. Tat and her fiancé were driving home from Saskatchewan through Wisconsin when the accident took place.

My mom stood, crying. Olivia rocked the baby, her face pale, her eyes huge.

All of our thoughts were the same: how can this be? Tat was twenty-years-old, engaged to be married, her whole life a blank canvas before her.

Immediately I thought of her parents, her brothers, her best friend, her fiancé.

I shook my head in disbelief. This could not be true. I would not believe it. Tat was fine. We had spoken over Instagram days earlier while I was still in London. We had plans to get together when I came home. She was going to walk down the aisle on October 22 and marry the boy she loved with all her heart. This could not be true.

I stopped crying. I refused to believe it until I got some sort of proof. My denial went so far as to hope she had been kidnapped. My mind knew that was irrational, but still I could not bear to think of anything else.

Tat’s dad called me that evening. When I saw him calling, my heart dropped. I knew it had to be real. We cried on the phone together.

I did not know you could hear someone’s heart break. But I heard his break from across the ocean.

Crack.

Crack.

Shatter.

__

The next morning I woke up with my eyes swollen shut. I had dreamt of Tat all night, and wasn’t sure if I had actually slept.

Two of my friends got married that evening. I knew Tat’s own wedding would never take place. I tried to blink thoughts of her away and lean into the celebration of my friends.

I was a range of emotions I had never experienced before, all at the same time: ecstatic for the celebration of my friend’s love, and yet shattered in a way that felt physical. It was hard to breathe, as if pieces of my fractured heart had gotten tangled within my lungs. I could not tell if I was exhausted from jet lag or grief.

I drank more than I should’ve. I was a sad cliche.

__

We had a memorial service for Tat at church the next day. Tat was a founding member of our church, Mountainside. It turns two next week, and Tat was there from the very beginning.

I swore at God as I drove the country road to church that morning on August 19. I pounded my fist against my steering wheel. I cursed. I screamed. Tears streamed and I rubbed them away. I drove too fast. I wanted adrenaline. I wanted anything but the pain that dug its fingernails into me.

Our church collapsed in our grief together. We prayed for one another. We told God we didn’t understand. I still don’t. I still say that often.

I grew angry at many people at church. I felt like they couldn’t possibly comprehend how I felt. I did not want to be touched, or hugged, or comforted.

I held my baby niece that Sunday, rocking her to sleep. I drew circles on her back, one after the next, over and over. I sat on my own because I did not know what to say to the people around me. How are there ever words to express such immense sorrow?

I went home and slept because I didn’t want to be awake any longer.

__

Her funeral came.

I wore red lipstick and my hair in a half knot because that’s always how Tat wore hers.

The entire morning I thought, “How am I waking up to go Tat’s funeral?” and “How am I putting on makeup to go to Tat’s funeral?” and “How am I getting changed to go to Tat’s funeral?”

Thousands of people came. Pride swelled within me as I saw the impact she made on the world begin to seep out in a tangible way.

The church was decorated beautifully. Later I learned the decorations were based off how her wedding was supposed to look. White flowers sat on top of her casket — the same flowers she would have carried two months later in her wedding bouquet.

We buried her the next morning.

I whispered our last words on earth before laying down a white rose.

__

It has been almost two months since Tat died. I dreamt about her every night for a month straight, and the first morning I didn’t dream about her, I cried. I looped a piece of brown string through a Polaroid picture — my favourite one of the two of us — tying it to my rearview mirror so I can see her each time I’m in my car.

I didn’t know if I could write about her. It felt cruel to try and boil down her beautiful life to a measly blog post, as if I were trying to give people an encouraging lesson amidst her death.

Even the best writer in the world could never fully express the magnitude of Tat’s life. I still need some time before I can even try.

There came a point early on in my grief where I had to determine who God is. In London, I was blown away by his goodness. He continually impressed his love into every fibre of my being. When I arrived home and heard about Tat’s death a mere hour later, I wondered if the summer had been some sort of hoax.

“Are you good?” I asked God honestly. “Are you really, truly, deeply good?”

It took weeks. I held this question in my hands, rolling it around like you do with a pair of dice. I weighed it, turning it over in my mind day after day.

I believe God never changes. So if I believed that, either God was bad all along and London was just some giant trick, or even in this tragedy, God remains good.

It took me a long time but I truly believe the latter.

Even in my grief, I celebrate his kindness. Especially in my grief, he is kind to me.

__

The day after Tat died, I had a dream. I saw her with Jesus.

She was wearing a white, gauzy dress, and her hair was long and flowing even though she’d recently cut it. Her hand was entwined with his, and her facial expression was one filled with a kind of adoration I had never seen here on earth.

Jesus was gazing down at her, delight pouring like sunshine from all of his facial features. I could feel the warmth radiating from him, even though I knew I was not there.

Tat’s smile extended, and she tilted her head back.

And then, she laughed.

“The more I get to know Jesus, the more I am astounded by his grace.” - Tat Blackburn

When hearing from God costs more than a five dollar sandwich

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I'm in London for the summer, completing a six-week internship before I graduate from college this fall. One of the main things I've been focusing on here in England is practicing how to hear from God.

I'm a fantastic talker, but listening? Not so much. Being alone in a city where I don't know people has helped shut me up, so every single day I've asked God to speak to me. Most days, He has, and it's been amazing.

Yesterday, I stepped off the underground tube with my earbuds firmly placed in my ears. I was listening to a podcast about the injustice surrounding eating and drinking and how often we take food and water for granted when there are millions of people around the world who rarely get to eat.

I nodded my head in agreement as I listened, thinking of the kids I'd seen in Rwanda and Uganda, their malnourished bellies rotund and aching. As I passed by the grocery store, completely wrapped up in my podcast, I saw a woman. She was older, maybe in her mid-sixties, sitting on the edge of the road. She had a cardboard sign in front of her, and scrawled in black letters it read, I'm hungry.

I continued walking but abruptly stopped when it hit me — God was giving me an opportunity to feed someone who was hungry, someone who was sitting right in front of me. I didn't have to go to Africa to hear from God. I could hear from Him right in that moment, as if He was kindly saying to me, "Give her something to eat."

It felt simple enough. Even with my unpaid internship, I knew I could afford to buy her a sandwich. I went up to the woman and asked, "Can I get you a sandwich?"

She looked up at me. Her skin was dirty, and she said something in another language. She didn't speak English.

"A sandwich?" I asked again. "Or a salad? Or some fruit?" I gestured to the grocery store we stood in front of. "I can run inside and get you something to eat."

She reached her hand out to me, so I took it and pulled her up. Her smile was warm. She followed me into the grocery store and stopped in front of the dairy section. She pulled out a brick of cheese and looked at me as if asking for permission.

"Of course!" I said. "Take whatever you need."

She picked some more groceries: water, different types of deli meat, a comb, some headache medication.

I could feel people watching us as we stood in line to pay. She kept kissing my hand, saying thank you. She seemed to be telling me about her children, but I couldn't understand all of what she was trying to say. I turned to meet people's eyes, but they quickly looked away.

I took her hand in mine, and we walked to the self-checkout. As we rang the items through, I watched the total tally up. Can I afford this? I wondered. I thought I'd be buying her a five-dollar sandwich, not forty dollars worth of groceries. I immediately felt guilty for having that thought.

Read the rest over at (in)courage... 

On the eve of my twenty-fourth birthday

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My window is open in my flat in London, England. Dinner is on the stove: rice and a Thai coconut soup. The rice I made, the soup I didn't. I just heard a woman walk past and say, "This time of night is my favourite. Right after the sun has set, but before it's gotten too dark. The golden hour."

I'm sitting on my small cot in my small room, the bedspread red and white gingham. I have a wardrobe, a desk, a bed, a mini-fridge, a small stove, and a sink. It's all I need, and I'm finding it quite homey now that I've been here two weeks.

I have my routine. In the morning, I wake up and make tea and toast a bagel, then walk to my tube station. I take my tube ride —just four stops to Oxford Circus — before I hop off and walk to work. My hours at work vary. There's been a lot of news in London the past two weeks, and yesterday I worked until 11 p.m. because of the World Cup. (Poor England.) 

After work, I'll either walk to the art gallery or Hyde Park or another place I haven't been before. Or if I'm tired I'll start my commute home, perhaps picking up a few groceries at the local shop and walking with my hands full on the way back. 

I know my route now. I have come to mimic the brisk pace of the Londoners. I am starting to understand which way to look before crossing the street. There's a place I've found to get cheap coffee, and I'm slowly learning how to cook. 

Tomorrow I'll turn 24. 

I can hear the church bells ring out down the street from me at St. Matthews; ten rings to signify how it's 10 p.m. here now. I constantly find myself meandering into churches. It's not that I need a church to be with God, but those spaces always feel sacred to me. Especially here. The churches are stunning.

I keep finding myself asking God why he brought me here. I expected a revelation. God made it clear to me that he wanted me in London this summer, despite having to miss my Nana's funeral this past Tuesday. 

I thought I'd step off the plane and it'd click in as if, "Oh — yes, this is why God brought me to London." 

This week I got to wondering if God brought me all the way to London, England so he could get me by myself. In Canada, I'm too busy. In England — aside from work, of which I do a lot of — I have nothing to do. Of course, there are a million things to do here, but even while doing them, when you're alone you still have to think. It's just been me and my thoughts and God, mostly. 

I've thought about things a lot. I've listened to podcasts on identity and hearing God's voice. I've read a book on spiritual formation. 

I stood in a church on Sunday and tried to figure out why God was so adamant I come to London. It's a gorgeous city — vibrant and alive, modern yet rich with history — but it seemed, to me, that I was here for more than that. 

Maybe it's my Enneagram Four sneaking in... having to find a deeper meaning in absolutely everything. But I truly felt I wasn't only here simply to complete an incredible internship. 

I stood in the church, sweat dripping down my back because of this London heat wave, and asked God why I was here. I listened carefully, paying close attention to my heart.

God told me he brought me to England just to tell me he loved me. 

I laughed — out loud, in the middle of church. I mean, in all honesty, it's a bit of a dramatic move on God's part, don't you think? To fly me seven hours away for six weeks just to say I love you?

But of course, God knows I have a flair for the dramatic. For him to bring me all the way to England to affirm me of his love... well, I can't argue with that. 

I wanted revelation; instead, I received affirmation. 

I wanted something big and full of fireworks, a message in the sky, with the words, "Aliza, these are my plans for you..." 

Instead, I received a quiet companion. 

I wanted to go to my Nana's funeral on Tuesday. 

Instead, I received comfort. I walked home from work that day with the deep awareness that I had never walked home alone. 

There have been moments here where I have felt lonely. Although I'd consider myself an ambivert, I still prefer being with people than being by myself. I like short spurts of time on my own, not weeks on end. But being alone allows me to look forward to meeting up with people here — for dinner or coffee or a day in the city. I've met new people and been reacquainted with people from back home. Traveling on your own makes dinner with people a serious treat. 

I wanted to write you a post about what God has taught me, but I think that'll have to come later. For now, on the eve of my 24th birthday, I am instead sitting with the reason why he brought me all the way to England. 

Simply to tell me he loves me. I'm not sure what other God would do that.

How the goodness of God is getting me to England

I have two weeks left until I'm finished my classes for college, and right now I'm supposed to be writing a paper for my history elective. (Why did I take a history elective when I'm barely interested in history? I'm still not sure.) 

A part of me is excited to be done school. I've learned a lot these past few years — about journalism, of course, but also about myself and God and the person I want to be. The other part of me feels sad to see it ending so soon.

Part of my terms of graduation is the successful completion of an internship. I had applied for an internship in Toronto but didn't get it. A few weeks later, on a whim, I applied for an internship in London, England. Surely if I didn't get the Toronto internship, I hardly had a shot at England. 

I compiled a list of potential internships when England would say no. And, even on the off chance England said yes, how could I afford it? It would be an unpaid internship in a very expensive city. 

I was scared not to get it — because did that reflect my capabilities as a journalist? 

But I was scared to get it — because did that mean I was going to England for the summer? If I went, what would I miss back here at home? Ice cream dates with my nephew, Noah, and late nights holding Noah's new brother or sister?

I am more afraid of missing out on things than anything else in my life. I have done enough introspection to know a lot of this stems from being in Peru when my grandmother passed away two December's ago. I don't want to repeat that, ever.

I told God if he wanted me to go to England, I needed to be home for the birth of my sister's next baby. (I'm still working on being less bossy.) The baby is due in June, and the internship would happen sometime between May and September. I figured if God wanted me in England bad enough — considering he can literally move mountains — he could, hypothetically, have me go there after the baby is born. 

A few weeks after I applied, I received the email: I had been chosen for an internship in London, England. 

I read it six times. I could hardly believe it. (Don't they know I barely have any idea what I'm doing?) They asked me what timeline I preferred: I said I needed to be home until the middle of June. 

A few weeks later, my friends got engaged. Their wedding is August 18. I updated my prayer, adding to God, "If you'd really like me to go to England, can I go between June 20 and August 17?" 

I knew this wasn't likely. Only four time-slots were available for the internship, and a mere one fit in the timeline I was hoping for. But God has a way of restoring my faith.

The company emailed me back: I'd been chosen for the July 2 - August 10 time-slot. The exact one I needed to see my sister's baby be born and my friends get married. 

I could tell you more — how I budgeted the money I'd need to live there and felt gut-punched, but then started to receive cheques in the mail, and contracting opportunities that paid me to write and make art — opportunities which fit directly into the months before I'd leave for the UK. 

The goodness of God doesn't cease to amaze me. I can't begin to tell you what will happen in England — only that I am beyond sure I am supposed to go. 

I can't even attempt to measure his goodness. It's too high, too wide. It stretches around me, it goes before me, it loops behind me in wave after wave. 

I have two weeks of school, then my sister's baby, and then... London.

I can hardly wait.

Now, back to writing that history paper.


By the way, I'm hosting my fourth art show at the end of this month. If you're local to the GTA, you should definitely come. It's a free night full of art and treats and music. I'd love to see you there!

All of the info is right here on the Facebook event page: 

My new five year plan

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There's a flashing sign ahead of me as I drive on the highway. It's orange and bright — a sign warning me of the construction that's coming. Words blink across the screen. When I read them, I almost cry. 

Slow down, it says. 

Immediately I press my brakes, watching my speedometer drop. I move over to the slow lane. Cars rush past me. I wipe my eyes. 

Slow down, the sign said. And all I can think is: I wish I could. But there's too much to be done, isn't there? Things like graduating from college, or pursuing the North American dream. Things like planning another art show, and applying for internships, and trying to figure out how to make even the smallest indent of impact on the world. 

My friends got engaged this past week. It shook me — because for some reason their engagement made me realize how fast time flies. My friends are old enough to be engaged? to buy a house? to be a family? 

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was 18 and in Rwanda, dreaming of all the things I'd someday do? 

And then I blinked and here I am: almost 24 and graduating college in six weeks, with no concept of how on earth I got here so fast or where I go from here.  

"Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day," Dallas Willard said. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Isn't hurrying exactly what we, as North Americans, do? Every time I leave my house, I don't give myself enough time to get anywhere without going over the speed limit on the highway. I take the fast lane. I go through a drive through in case it's quicker. I brisk walk to my classes. 

There is no stillness, no silence, let alone any chance of no hurry. 

My phone tells me what's happening in the world immediately. Everything in my life feels instantaneous. I hardly have to wait for a thing, and when I do have to wait — say, for my car to get an oil change — I do it impatiently, thinking of all the things I could be doing instead. 

When did our lives become more about doing and less about being? At least, when did mine? How have I missed the days of winter turning slowly into spring?

One of my assignments in school is to list a Five Year Plan. (This just about gave me shingles considering I don't even know what I want to do next month, but I digress.) The entire assignment is to come up with all the things you'd like to do within the next five years of your life. I thought of idea after idea: to write another novel, to write a non-fiction book, to write a children's book, to travel to each continent, to host more art shows, to create a documentary, and more. There were smaller things in there too, like: go to the gym three times a week, write a little bit each day, read more Canadian authors, and read a book a week. 

As I was creating my list, I couldn't help but think: how will I have enough time? 

Is the answer to jam more things into my life? Or is the answer, perhaps, to slow everything down? 

I drove past the construction sign again today. I knew what it would say before I saw it...

...slow down. 

I took a deep breath as I passed and once again, watched my speedometer drop.

John Mark Comer says, "Hurry is a form of violence for the soul." I have found this to be true. The feeling of always being connected to the world because of the tiny computer in my back pocket causes me to feel more hurried, anxious, and haggard than I ever thought I could feel. 

I don't want my life to be curated and instagrammable. 

I don't want to blink and have 10 years go by, only to feel as though I haven't truly lived. 

I don't want to constantly be hurrying, hustling, and trying to "make it", just to come to the conclusion that "making it" is a lie. 

We've got one short, precious life here on earth. I've decided I'm not going to spend it hurrying. Jesus didn't hurry — in fact, he actually took very long amounts of time to do something, or talk to someone, or pray. And considering my entire goal in life is to become more like Jesus, I'd like to stop hurrying too. 

My new Five Year Plan is this: slow down. 

I'm taking the slow lane on the highway now. I've removed the notifications from my phone so I'm not constantly distracted by the world inside a tiny computer, instead of the real world beside me. I'm noticing the melting snow, and the spindly trees, and my nephew's new dance moves. I can feel the breath of God within me and around me. I will not give into hurry sickness any longer. 

Slow down, the sign says.

I am.


A life to the full

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There are only two and a half months until I finish college. Somedays I can hardly believe it. It feels like I just started. Part of what will allow me to graduate college is the successful completion of a six-week internship. The first step to a successful internship completion is, of course, finding an internship.

I applied for the best internship I could find, happening right in the heart of the largest city in Canada. I’m in school for journalism. Immediately after I applied, I started imagining myself taking the train to downtown Toronto each day, the bustle of activity featuring busy commuters surrounding me. I thought about the stories I would write, and the people I would meet. I couldn’t wait. Maybe it wouldn’t be simply an internship… perhaps they’d even give me a job afterward.

This must be what God wants for me, I thought. Why else did I feel so confident? Was God giving me a glimpse of what my future might hold?

I received an email from the company, requesting an interview.

Victory.

I prepared for the interview using all the ways I knew how — I made connections with people from the company and called them to learn what their interviews had been like; I emailed previous interns; I wrote down the answers to questions I thought they might ask.

The morning of the interview, I felt nervous but confident. I could do this.

I didn’t feel great when the interview ended. None of the questions I had prepared answers for had been asked. I started to doubt everything.

I received the email yesterday: I didn’t get the internship.

Come over with me to (in)courage...