On opening your hands and releasing your truth


We learn about telling the truth in school. My professor says, "I think the most important thing you need to remember is to seek to tell the truest stories."

I'd like to be a truth seeker, and the similarities of what I'm learning about seeking the truth in journalism, and what I know about seeking the truth in Jesus, do not escape me. Now I try to seek those truths everywhere I go: in the Christmas lights, and the commute to school, and the way my nephew Noah can say "Liza" now. All of these truths fill me up -- wide-eyed wonder I keep grasping onto.

Advent is beginning, and with it the active waiting that comes from this month long search for truth. But I don't want to stop searching when Advent is finished. I want to keep finding truth in all the places I go.

I decided, then, to write my final assignments about the things that matter to me -- the truth that matters to me. So I write papers about maternal mortality in Uganda, and sex trafficking in Toronto, and what it looks like to be a voice for someone who may not be able to speak yet.


I was upset with God six months ago.

"Why did you make me an artist?" I asked him. I had been thinking about Uganda, about the mothers who are dying there. "Why couldn't I have been a doctor, or someone who can do something? I do not want to make art that someone will simply pin on Pinterest. I want to make things that have meaning."

I entered college and promptly stopped making art.

Journalism seemed to be more meaningful. At least I could write about what was happening in the world.

Soon my soul felt cluttered. I stared at my paints longingly, the watercolours that reminded me of streaky sunrises, and the brushes that bent between my fingers and rested on the pad of my thumb. My canvases were blank and staring up at me. I found myself writing down the art I would make, if I would allow myself to make it.


When we were learning about truth in school, I kept thinking about my artwork, and my blog, and the novel that's sitting on my desktop. What if those things were my truth? What if I wasn't meant to tell the truth through being a doctor, or a scientist, but through letters on a canvas, and words on a tiny blog?

What if the way God created me, and the gifts he purposely and intricately tangled around my lungs and heart and membrane, could in fact offer meaning?

I chose to believe this. I booked myself an art show.


I buy a new book for Advent this year, and so far I've missed more days than I've read. I try not to feel like a failure because I can't seem to commit to reading daily. My mind feels very full these days -- I think mostly because multi-tasking and I don't work well together, and with three weeks left of the first semester, and my second art show coming up on Friday, multi-tasking is unfortunately inevitable.

I start to get scared for Friday. I dream no one comes. I dream I ruin all of my artwork before the show. I wake up and decide my art show is a release of my truth: that this is something I love, and that I can tell the truth through art, not just words.

I practice opening my hands and pretending my art and my words and my passions are flying from my fingertips. I tell myself, When you hold on tight, you benefit no one. When you release, you have no idea how far it might go.


I'll practice releasing my truth this Friday. I'll choose to believe that it's meaningful. I'll think about the Truth that I love, and the truth that I'm learning. My professor said, "I think the most important thing you need to remember is to seek to tell the truest stories." I write this down and decide not to forget it.

Keep the doors open for me

The trees bent over me like a canopy -- ushering me along with their red and orange leaves, some of the tips yellowed from the changing of seasons. It's my favourite drive: the 12 minute back roads from my house to the town of Binbrook.

The windows were down and my hair whipped around my shoulders. The sun was warm on my face, and that's just how I felt inside: warm, filled up, and profoundly excited for what was to come for the town I was driving in.

We're starting a church. (We being my brother-in-law, my sister, their baby Noah, dozens and dozens of other people, and me.) It officially launches October 23rd in Binbrook, Ontario, at one of the local elementary schools. Mountainside, it's called -- named after the place where Jesus made disciples.

To say this is exciting would be a vast understatement. This church has been in the making for a very long time, and as I drove beneath the trees, their colours changing before my eyes, I turned down my music and started to pray -- for the church, for the people, for the trees and the roads and the cars and the children and all of the things that make up this town.

As I drove, I saw something like a movie take place in my mind. The movie went like this:


It was just me, alone, and I was in the hallway of the elementary school looking down at all of the doors and lockers and rooms.

Suddenly, each door was swinging open.

I felt safe, not afraid. I watched as each door swung wide, swooshing with a loud breath -- and then, I heard each one click. The doors were bolted open. I tried to close one of them, pushing the door as hard as I could, but it remained wide open. There was nothing I could do to close the doors of this school; nothing I could do to try and close the doors of what would soon be the church.

You're welcome here, it seemed as though God was saying. You can't close the doors because I have opened them -- and I am the only one to make them close. Whoever walks through the doors of this building is welcome here. 


I told people, later, about what I had seen in the movie that had played in my mind. I drove through the town, praying for the houses and the people who lived there.

"You're welcome here," I told the houses, although the people inside couldn't hear me. "The doors are staying open for you. You can walk in, just as you are, and you'll be welcome here."

This has become my prayer -- for my life, for my school, and now for my church:

Jesus, keep the doors open for me. 

And please let me keep the doors open for other people, too.

Let us be welcome here.

Show me the good

Everything is changing. This is what I keep thinking these days -- that everything around me feels like it's changing.

I sit here in Nashville, on this bed with a white comforter that reminds me of home except not. I seem to do my best summer debriefing when I am away -- just far enough, like a plane ride to Nashville, or that car ride last year to Florida. 

Leaving makes me understand why we stay. I enter an airport and am suddenly nostalgic: grasping at the last bits of summer all the while knowing it's slipping through my fingertips faster than I can catch. I remember that this is why we stay -- because the people we love dearly are reason worth staying for.

I entered this summer in a terrified state of mediocrity. That seemed, to me, worse than having a hard time. Even though I had just had my first art show and was utterly dazzled by the kindness people showed me there, I was still strangely scared that I would only ever be mediocre.

Show me the good, my heart whispered to God, without my mind being aware of the request. Show me the good. 

And he did.

I saw the good while we were dancing at midnight, our lungs burning and throats sore from singing as hard as we could. I'll remember how I felt then: so free, and yet entangled at the same time. Entangled in summer and being twenty-two and knowing those warm, late nights were ending soon.

I saw the good in the faces of my friends. When they held my hands and prayed for me, when we laughed until our eyes dripped, when we cheers'd and sang and danced. When the windows were rolled down and we sat by the water and we laid under the stars. I saw the good when we talked of God's goodness and his remarkable love.

I saw the good in California and now in Nashville and when I drive alone in my car. When I prayed the whole way home and God kept urging me to love harder, to love deeper, to love more intentionally -- even when love feels like hurt sometimes.

I saw the good this week on the airplane when I read John 10:10 -- I came that you may have life, and have life to the full -- and it felt as though Jesus was telling me, "Aliza, this summer was a glimpse of your life to the full," and I felt like crying because it was such a precious, precious gift.

I saw the good in dozens of shared plates of nachos and rounds of Dutch Blitz. In glasses of wine and sitting in the hot tub, and making lists of all the dreams I'd long to have if nothing could stop me.

But even when I think of all the good God has continually shown me this summer, the fear still sneaks in somedays. In these moments, when the fear is most evident, my heart feels smashed open. My hands will shake, and so will my insides. I'll think that I'll want to be alone, and two moments later long to be surrounded by people. I'll feel as if I'm falling -- hard and fast, soon to crash and splatter, a million fragmented pieces.

I'll sit with my hands beneath me to try and cease the shaking. I'll feel like a quivering, terrified mess of a girl, and I'll feel guilty for feeling this way after seeing all of the good.

But in a few weeks, everything is changing. And fear is large and looming and often more recognizable than peace.

So I'll take my shaky hands and insides and I'll lie down. And I'll say to Jesus again and again, show me the good. 

And this, more than anything, is true --

he will.

Please don't let rejection have the last word

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Aliza -- 

Recently I've been struggling with rejection and countless doors slammed in my face that I thought would be wide open and I have been rethinking a lot of my dreams and goals and the things that I thought I was good at. I've been discouraged, felt like giving up, and doubting my passions and talents.

I'm a writer. 

I have always wanted to be a writer. 

I want to create beautiful things for the people I love. 

With colleges breathing down my throat and so many life changing decisions to make in the next year, I have been feeling so overwhelmed and scared and confused recently. When I try to explain what I want to do to people, it never makes sense. It doesn't fit in a specific category of careers.

-- E. 




Okay, E --

Let me first tell you how sorry I am that you've been experiencing rejection. It's such a crappy part of being a human, isn't it?

I read something this morning that bruised my heart until it was swollen: "Jesus, who never rejected anyone, was rejected more than anyone else." Suffice it to say, God gets rejection. He was the most rejected person on the planet.

On a scale of things I'd be fine with never feeling again, rejection is at the top of the list. So I want to affirm you -- it’s totally okay to feel crappy after experiencing rejection. And after that affirmation, I want to encourage you -- even though you’ve been rejected, that doesn't mean you’re not good at what you’ve been rejected at.

Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, was rejected by agents and publishers sixty times before someone gave her a shot.

Kathryn's friends and family members said, "Kathryn, we really think you need to move on from this project." Kathryn disagreed. So Kathryn started lying to them about where she was going. She'd say she was moving on, and then she'd sneak away to work on her book, to revise it one more time, to prepare it to send to -- yet again -- another literary agent.

One day, presumably after years of work and tears and sweat and effort and a whole lot of cursing, someone said yes to Kathryn. Someone gave her a shot.

Now The Help is a best selling novel and a major motion picture. All because one person, after sixty people saying no, one person said yes.

This story matters to me. I think sometimes rejection is a sign to move forward, but I also think sometimes rejection is when a person (or sixty) may not have quite grasped the potential of what stands in front of them.

I got shake it off stamped into a bracelet.

So that a) I can continually channel my inner T Swift and b) when the rejection comes -- which it always will -- I can do just that. Shake it off, shake it off. I know it's not that easy. Rejection is a slow and harsh burn. But I think sometimes we convince ourselves it's better if we hold on tight. Let me assure you from some serious experience: when your burdens are heavy, it's always better to let go.

For a long time I thought I had to do very specific things that would fall into line with God’s Big Plan For My Life.

What I’m learning is this: if I’m walking beside Jesus, completely in line with who he is, then his plan is going to fall into place because I’ll be beside him. I believe God’s plan for all people is to follow and love him so deeply, that everything we do is a reflection of that love.

Please don't let rejection have the last word, E. Let's be real, it's Fear who is speaking now -- hissing that you're not good enough. You can mourn and grieve how you're feeling in this period of rejection. But get up again, and try one more time. Maybe that time will be the moment when someone says yes. Maybe tomorrow someone will give you your shot.

If you need to write, write. (I happen to think Kathryn Stockett would agree with me.) If you need to create, create. But writing a book is not the epitome of success, and success doesn't equal happiness. Stick to who you are -- more specifically, to who God has created you to be.

And don't forget, E -- Jesus gets rejection.

This is a good life

There are so many things I want to do. I could hand you a list right now -- I'd just need to fetch it from my bedroom -- and it would be filled with dreams to leave the country and fly to Italy, to taste cool gelato beneath my tongue, filled with goals to write a book and attend the Olympics and make a stained glass window. The other day I panicked that I wouldn't get to do it all. I walked to the woods and thought, "Am I wasting my life away?" I thought, "Am I going to make it to Italy?" I thought, "Am I going to wish I spent my days more wisely instead of dabbling words and watercolour onto pages, stirring lattes and taking change, and dreaming about cobblestone pathways that end by the sea?"

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 9.41.38 AM I convince myself life is only good if it's a constant series of adventures, if it includes drives to the airport and rumbling take offs and jet lag and souvenirs. I have talks with my best friend Sarah about the importance of sometimes staying, and she reminds me life is good, always good, even in the midst of the darkness. She points out it's also good in the midst of the mundane, and smack dab in the middle of the light. I'm awfully grateful God has placed people into my life that keep me grounded. Sometimes I wonder what I'd be like without them, knowing I surely would have floated away by now.

The list in my bedroom taunts me, reminding me of all the things I thirst to do, and it's a good list because I am allowed to dream, and I remember those 85 kids in Rwanda who were hardly given that opportunity.

I know that this is a good life. Whether or not I meet the people or see the places or do the things I long to do and see and meet.

I know that this is a good life. I have so many stories to tell you, so many words to share, and when I look at my life like the days falling against the next in a stack of dominos, I see love and Jesus and remarkable times.

I know that this is a good life. I think of the people I have met, and I'm sure some don't remember me, but I remember them. This is life, isn't it? People, filled with humanity that is reflected in ourselves, people, who teach us grace and what it's like to feel alive.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 9.41.25 AM I don't have to go to Italy to know I feel alive. I feel it right now: the tips of my electric blue nail polished toes on this cold tiled floor. I don't have to go somewhere to find my life; I'm living it right now. Every breath and word and desperate prayer is mine, and I know this is a good life.

I hold onto the fact that I wouldn't trade it for anything.

The secret to real, true, life long success


I was going to be an actress. 

Or a journalist. Maybe a novelist, or perhaps a Broadway singer. I had plans -- you know? Sort of plans, anyway. Loose and flimsy plans, but plans nonetheless. Or maybe you'd categorize them as dreams, instead.

The key to success, they told me, was a degree. They advised this piece of paper, one with my name embossed fancy and large, signifying my worth, prophesying my certain success. At least four years and who knows how many dollars, but that paper would determine my future. Or so they said.

I wanted success, let me tell you. I wanted fulfillment. I wanted to be big.

I was eighteen and graduating high school and I knew nothing. I knew I knew nothing and I depended on the people who told me what success should look like. Teachers, guidance counselors, even my dentist. They all had an opinion on what my future should hold.

I was a simple girl who longed for independence, and all I really knew was that I really loved Jesus. And that I wanted to be someone. I wanted to be someone rather than do something.

Kaitlyn Bouchillon invited me over to her blog today. Come on and join us?

When you're wishing you were big


I didn’t want to be the best. That wasn’t the goal, not really. I wanted to be important, appreciated, valued, liked, loved, and chosen, but not the best. Add “big” to that list. I wanted to be big, too.

Me and my self-righteousness are sitting in my room in my small town called Dundas, twenty years old, and I’ll admit I haven’t done a lot of living. But I’ve been hoping for a long time — a decade at least, hoping for things that are probably too earthly. Dreaming for awhile too, of Paris and New York and Italian gelato and skipping down ancient Greek streets.

I wanted to be important, and appreciated, and valued, and liked, and loved, and chosen, and big.

When all those things came to being, when people would hear my name and instinctively know who I am, I would finally be fulfilled. This has always been something I’ve struggled with — if we want to use the word struggle so lightly. I wanted to be known in a way I almost ached for.

I wanted to go places, meet people, create art, create stories, and most days I feel like I’m wasting myself away, sitting here in this room, sitting here at this desk.

I'm over at (in)courage today. I would love for you to head on over and join me there... 

So your calling feels small and the world feels big

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Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has extended to you.

Ephesians 4:1

I am imagining a world where we live out our callings to their fullest potential, where success doesn't look like huge numbers or giant followings but a life lived out in humility, patience and love. I think Jesus measures success differently than we do.

I've been thinking a lot about dreams and callings recently. I've started to get really excited about some dreams that Jesus is cultivating deep within my heart, and as we know I am a dreamer, so dreaming things up is the most fun thing ever.

But where there are dreams, there is doubt.

I called my safe friend yesterday. I called her doubting everything.

"Please tell me I'm not crazy," I begged her.

She reassured my sanity, and then said words that I'll never forget:

"Success looks different to God than it does to the world."

Those words stayed with me long after we hung up the phone. Let me tell you something: I want the world to view me as successful. Yes I do. I like affirmation. It feels sooooooo good. Let me tell you something else: I am scared if I dream something -- if Jesus cultivates a dream deep within the refines of my soul -- that the dream could totally flop.

Probably not a shock to you, but this girl doesn't like failure.

But success looks different to God than it does to the world.

Success to the world looks like fame! money! a gajillion followers on all social media! But what does success look like to Jesus?

Well, I'm not sure yet. I come back to this verse: Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has extended to you. Maybe it's about stepping out and partaking in this calling He has so graciously extended to you -- whether that feels successful or not.

And when your calling feels small and the world feels big, this is what I will remember:

I want to live out my calling in the biggest way I can, but in the smallest way possible - the kind of small where I always find myself in front of Jesus.

if your dreams don't scare you, who cares?


If you were to go on Pinterest today, I could guarantee that at some point in your pinning and scrolling and wishing for more time, you would stumble on probably my least favourite quote in the entire universe. I don't know who first said it or wrote it or made it up. But if I ever find out you can bet I'll be on my way to their home with a few very choice words for them.

(I'm a scary Canadian. Don't tempt me.)

If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough.

I shuddered as I read that. And yes, to answer your question, I have been told I'm dramatic a time or two. But seriously, it is everywhere:

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And I am here, with my very humble and obviously important opinion, to tell you that I think this is all wrong.

Look, I'm not against dreaming big. I happen to be the type of person who dreams often and dreams huge. Most of my dreams have a very very small possibility. But I love to dream.

I was talking to my friend a few weeks ago. We were talking about dreams, because that's definitely one of my favourite subjects to chat on. She looked at me and said, "I don't know what my dreams are."

"What do you mean?" I asked her.

"Well," she said, "I have dreams. But they're small and quite ordinary. They're not big or important like other people I know."

I couldn't believe how sad I was when I heard her say this. As if the importance of dreams are measured by the scale of probability. I don't think they are. I don't think they should be.

Don't be afraid to dream small or big or somewhere in the middle. They're your dreams, after all.

Maybe you dream about being in a movie, or writing a book, or taking your babies to the farmers market. Maybe you dream of getting married in a huge church with a thousand people, or getting married in your backyard.

I don't care if those dreams scare you or not. Those dreams are brave. I want you to hear that. Your dreams are brave.

So this is my new mantra that perhaps you'll come across Pinterest when you're pinning and scrolling and wishing you had more time:

if your dreams


For all the people who didn't go to school (and maybe for all the people who did)

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI didn't go to university. Or college. Not really, anyways. In April I'll have completed an online certificate in Creative Writing, which will be the extent of my education.

It has been three years since I graduated high school. A year and a half since I went to Africa. One year since I decided I was going to write.

People still ask me all the time "Where are you going to go to school?" or "What are your plans for September?" as if a degree in my hand will be the determining factor of my future.

Maybe I'm truly all wrong, and in six years I'll find myself still working at Starbucks, still living at my parents, really regretting not going to school.

But in this moment, and in every moment for the past three years, I think this is the best decision for me.

This isn't an act of rebellion, or of trying to be "different" than everyone else. At one point I applied and got accepted into schools for theatre, but writing was always the passion brewing in my heart, begging to be discovered. I declined those offers. But I decided after the completion of my certificate, I would pursue Journalism. The day I was going to apply, my mom and I went to the doctors and everything changed.

I didn't even want to go to school for Journalism. I just wanted to be thought of as somebody, and to me, the somebodies went to school. 

This is what I want to tell you, for all of those who didn't go to school and maybe even more for those who did:

Your education does not determine your value. 

Your grades, your degrees, your certificates or diplomas do not determine your worth.

Your schooling does not determine your future.

And I get it - there are some things you really do need to go to school for. I wouldn't want my mom to have had nurses who hadn't gone to school and been properly educated. I get that. I'm thankful for school in that capacity, I really am.

But if you haven't gone to school, you aren't any less intelligent, or have any less of a future.

For all of you who have gone to school, you should be proud. You have worked extremely hard, you are smart, you deserve your degree, and you deserve to have pride in that.

For all of you who have not gone to school, you can be proud, too. You have also worked extremely hard, and you are smart. You deserve to have pride in that.

So maybe after all of this, this is my real point. Maybe, instead of asking what schooling we're taking, what life we're supposedly pursuing, we ask this: what are your dreams, and how can I help you get there?

Because isn't it the truth that people need other people? I believe God gives us real dreams, real extraordinary dreams, all of us real different, and I think some of those dreams need school and I think a lot of them don't. But I think no matter what, we need one another.

So tell me, what are your dreams and how can I help you get there?