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On newness, growth, & learning to love Edmonton.

It’s been just over two months since I moved east from the Coast and I still feel a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions when I’m asked how the move has been or how I’m doing.

Change has a beautifully challenging way of shaking you out of habits and routines. Newness, while glorious and thrilling in its wide-open potential, requires intentional focus at level not often demanded in the familiarity of the “normal”.

Of course, this is a gift. A chance to grow and to re-focus and reset. But it’s also really hard.

And it takes time. Time to find new footing and time to find new rhythms and time to build new relationships. Time to sit in the unresolved and the unknown mystery of transition, trusting that God is working here too, that this isn’t wasted time, and that He will, always, continue to lead us forward in His goodness.

So far Edmonton has been both beautiful and stretching. We still haven’t found a local church where we’re going to root ourselves for our tenure here, my work has changed pretty significantly, the overall culture here is a big change from Vancouver, and on more than one occasion, I’ve cried on my drive home because I keenly miss my people, miss getting to do life with them and be with them especially as a few are walking through tough seasons (and phone calls and face-time and texting just don’t feel the same), and miss the proximity I had to mountains and ocean (where I most easily connect/reset with God).

But, it’s also been energizing meetings about potential partnerships with organizations doing valuable work aimed at breaking down barriers to employment for newcomers to Canada. It’s been running in the River Valley - on my now “go-to” running route that crosses the river multiple times and weaves through seemingly endless park space. It’s been building rhythms and space with Nick - carving out time together amidst the insanity of his dental school schedule and the joy of being in the same place. It’s been cherishing in-person meals and walks and coffees with one of my dearest friends - a friendship that for years has been sustained via distance. It’s been meeting new people and settling into a new team at work. It’s been a slower pace, which means I’m making it through lots of books, cooking real meals most nights, and have watched more hockey than even my normal. And it’s been using this time to take some steps towards some long-term goals: some more schooling and ramping up to start training for our Ironman in 2019.

It’s been beautiful and good and exhausting and growing. It’s been upheaval and it’s been peace. All in the same space. Which really is the true mystery of growth, eh?

I’ve had seasons of my life when prayers for newness - new life, new vision, new joy, new hope - were the rawest and most desperate prayers I could muster. And God, in His vast mercy, grew and healed and restored more in those spaces than I can recount. He did something so new, the winter that once felt persistently dark and cold is nearly unrecognizable.

This time, in God’s goodness and humour, the newness wasn’t what I asked for.

I didn’t want to leave - like really didn’t want to leave. I found deep meaning in my work (even when it was crazy), I had the kind of community that people dream of with a reach and depth that is hard to articulate, I was deeply connected to the local church and felt like I was actually a tangible part of what God was doing in the Lower Mainland. I lived in the city I love most in the entire world - a city that constantly energized me with its natural beauty and pace and West Coast food scene, and with its great need. Years ago, God wrote Vancouver on my heart, and it’s an etching that I suspect will never fade or diminish.

So while this season of newness and this particular location wasn’t what I wanted, God invited me here. He asked me to trust Him in this. He asked me to cling more tightly to Him than my calling to Vancouver. (We are, after all, never fully called to things or places, but rather always and only to Christ Himself and to the outworking of His gospel in all contexts and circumstances). And if I do anything with my life, I pray that I live in quick obedience to His invitation(s) and hold tight to Jesus with deep joy - no matter what He asks of me. That’s a daunting prayer, I realize, but is there anything more worthwhile?

This move was an invitation to trust that He would meet me here, that He knows where He is leading Nick and I (even though we have little idea), and that He has something for us here: things to learn, things to do, and most importantly, people to love - for however long we take up residence in this northern prairie town.


When God allows circumstances to strip us of all the things we’re holding on to - good things and good habits and less than valuable things and less than beneficial habits alike - the promise He gives us in return is a baffling one: that if we lean into Him in the process of growth, what we gain will always be the greatest gift. Because what we gain is more of God Himself. Or, rather, a more realistic understanding of who He has always been and how truly all-encompassing His Gospel is in its reach and beauty.

This process of growing and letting go – of places and people and things to which I can hold to too tightly or to which I can too quickly attach my identity or validation -  makes the sufficiency, faithfulness, and enduring goodness of Jesus that much apparent.

Where do I run when I don’t have community to lean on? Jesus. Where do I find joy when I cannot find that joy in close proximity to dear friends or in close proximity to stunning natural beauty? Jesus. Where do I find energy and focus and meaning when I’m not as easily able to pull those things from the work of my hands or my day-to-day context? Jesus. Who do I trust in the midst of upheaval and unknown? Jesus.

Over and over and over again, throughout every season and context and emotional state: Jesus.

All I am and have and ever hope to be.


In “resettling” in a new place, there’s a huge temptation to want to rebuild something here that looks as similar as it can to my life in Vancouver. But if I did that I’d be missing on the opportunity to lean into what God has for me (and for us) right here: in this city, in this context, in this exact emotional and mental and political and geographic space. I’d be trying to store old-wine in new wine-skins and missing out on the promise that God is doing a new thing.

And let’s be real, I’d also be endlessly disappointed. Edmonton and Vancouver are vastly different cities, cultures, and contexts. They each have beauty of their own - deep beauty, but it looks very different. Aside from their location in the western half of Canada, their ties to soccer phenom Alphonso Davies, and the reality that God is deeply in love with every single resident of both areas and at work in both cities, you’d be hard-pressed to find similarities between the two. Comparing the two - and what life looked/looks like in each isn’t a particularly useful process. Comparing makes me miss home even more and, most dangerously, if I’m not careful, it can breed discontentment or create an idol of Vancouver. Likewise, comparing singleness (and the ways I filled my time and made decisions while single) to marriage (and what it means to make decisions with Nick and walk in the same direction and in the same pace) is dangerous.

But God is doing a new thing. And that’s beautiful and important and good. And I have to remind myself of that multiple times a day right now. We’re hiking a new trail here - with eyes set on a different summit. It looks different than any trail I’ve hiked before, but it’s still motivated by the same reality: God with us, God for us, God in us. And sustained always, by the reality that the invitation to know Love (in Christ) and be Love (as He has loved us, so we endeavor to love our neighbours) never reaches a full conclusion until our breath here ends.


There are a lot of things I know about Edmonton: It’s cold. It’s (mostly) brown. It’s (mostly) flat. It’s a university town (University of Alberta), a Government town (credit its status as the provincial capital), and an industrial town. There are lots of Oilers fans here and McDavid is the shared hero of just about every Edmonton kid. It’s located on the shores of the North Saskatchewan River and boasts a claim to an impressive amount of park space - almost entirely in a stretch of protected park ground generically referred to as “the River Valley”. It’s a hub of settlement for newcomers to Canada, the “gateway” to Canada’s northern economy, and despite the relative flourishing of the Alberta economy (until recent years at least), it is home to a large population of urban poverty.

Here’s the most important thing I know about Edmonton though: It’s the northernmost city in the world with more than one million people and God is deeply, relentless, and extravagantly in love with every single one of those people. I know that there is no place where God is not at work and no city (or town or village or wilderness) separated from His relentless love. Straight up: God is obsessed with this town.

I also don’t see any space in Scripture to speak anything but life over the cities where we make our homes. Christ himself wept for Jerusalem because His heart was for her. He sent prophets to proclaim mercy and life. He sent his own people as outsiders to make their homes and to seek the good of the places they found their dwelling (however long-term or temporary). Over and over, the vision of the Kingdom is one that invites us to invest, to dive deep, to not look down on “small things or small efforts”, and to pray and labour for the good of the places where we make our homes.

His vision is love and His vision is presence.

Always.

For everyone.

In all contexts and situations.

I don’t love Edmonton yet. I want to. I’m growing in that - slowly. I’m praying every day for a deeper love for this place and these people. And I’m asking Jesus to lead us only deeper into what it means to know His love and be His love: that He would grow persistent faithfulness and enduring joy in me - and in us - regardless of where He calls us.

Right here. Right now. May He give us only a deeper glimpse of His heart for this Prairie town.

In Edmonton as it is in Heaven.

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N&A: Our Vows

Since our wedding, a few people have requested to read/have a copy of our vows. Which is, in itself, a humbling and encouraging request, since this is just about the most-important, daunting, and meaningful thing we’ve ever written. We wrote these vows together and chose to say the same words to each other as a shared commitment to the covenant we made to each other and to live(s) lived in pursuit of Jesus, the Gospel, and His Kingdom - now together.

I, Alida Christine Oegema, take you, Nicholas Jordan Thomas, to be my Husband.
I, Nicholas Jordan Thomas, take you, Alida Christine Oegema, to be my Wife.

Today we step into something much bigger than ourselves.
We step into the covenant of marriage rooted in the extravagant and unending love of God.
And we commit to loving each other only because He has first loved us.

He is our Foundation,
our Anchor,
and our Refuge.

He is our majestic King.
Our generous Father.
And He alone is our Hope and our Salvation.

I recognize that I cannot love you fully in and of myself,
and that in my own limitations and sin,
I will fail you and I will disappoint you.

But I vow today, in the presence of God and in the company of our family and friends,
to always look to Christ:
the One who is Love,
the One who shows us what love looks like,
and the One whose Spirit equips us to Love.

I commit to pursuing the heart of the Father ahead of all else - for He is our life.

You are my love and my best friend
but You are not my first love.
And I am not the one who will satisfy you.

I am not your joy.
Your contentment is not found in me.
It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is your joy,
He is your contentment,
He is your peace.
In all instances, look to Him.

I promise, with you,
to anchor our lives in His sufficiency
To root our lives in the Gospel
To rejoice - in all situations and contexts, with or without you, in His faithfulness.

I commit to living our lives in obedience and surrender to His steadfast love
and in pursuit of His mission -
wherever He leads us.

Knowing that all we are and have is credit the generosity of Christ,
I vow to intentionally choose community,
and to prioritize care for the poor & the marginalized.
I vow to pursue justice with you, even when that’s uncomfortable, inconvenient or costly.
and to partner together in the reconciliation and restoration of the Gospel.

From this day forward, I choose you - and you only.
Forsaking all others, I commit myself to you,
all that I am - my body, mind, and my heart.

I vow that for better or for worse,
in abundance & lack,
in failure & success,
calm & stress,
agreement & conflict,
sickness & health,
that I will walk in the Lord alongside you,
love you,
and support you.

I commit, with the grace of God, to pursue your interests and heart ahead of my own.
I promise to prioritize you,
champion you,
cherish you,
and pray for and with you.

I promise to remind you of your true identity:
and you, my love,
are His cherished son (daughter),
a co-heir with Christ of the eternal promises of God,
washed and healed and sustained by the blood of Christ
alive in His joy and His salvation.
You are set-apart to know and love Him
and in you He is well pleased.

I commit to respecting you,
to listening to you,
to encouraging you,
and to having compassion for you as we grow into who God created us to be.

I promise to meet you, just as God has continually met me, with mercy over judgement.
And, as Christ has forgiven me, to freely extend forgiveness to you.

I vow to dream with you,
celebrate with you,
laugh with you,
worship with you,
take risks with you,
pursue whimsy with you,
rest with you,
comfort you,
and cry with you no matter what life brings.

For you are my love - today, and for as long as we both shall live.



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N&A: Our Story

We wrote this recap of our story for our wedding website, but I wanted to post it here so we’ll always have a record of it. Love is a beautiful and crazy and weighty and challenging and vulnerable and gracious and emboldening gift. And I’m humbled and baffled and grateful that Nick and I get to venture into what it means to be and become love together.


The short version is: It was a set-up. We have our friends Marin & Brady to thank (forever!) for that. M&B were a part of Nick's team on the World Race and Marin was a good friend of Alida's from high school. 

A: Funny twist however, if that I didn't know it was a set up. I got a message from Marin telling me that a good friend of theirs was coming into Vancouver and asking if I'd be up for them passing on my information so that we could possibly meet up. I said yes without really thinking of any of the potential implications. I get asked to host and give local advice for people coming through Vancouver a lot, so I figured this was much of the same. And Marin is a dear friend so I assumed that a friend of theirs was a good person to meet up with, especially someone who had traveled all over the world with them. I honestly figured that I'd likely just pass on a few restaurant or trail recommendations and that would be it. Nick did message me and after a bit of back and forth and trying to coordinate times that might work with Nick's Vancouver Island trip and my being in Ontario for a week for work and my cousin's wedding (Nick was persistent!), we finally found a night that worked to meet up.

We grabbed sushi in Kitsilano and then headed to Jericho Beach to watch the sunset. I thought I was just showing off Vancouver in the summer, but it didn't take long for me to realize that I didn't want the conversation to end. We talked for hours, well after the sun went down - the conversation flowed so easily. 

N: Okay, OK, sure. I asked Brady & Marin to set me up with their Canadian friend. So what?! I've pretty much known Alida since September 2014 (the month that Marin & Brady first mentioned her to me). Alida claims she didn't know it was a date, but I still find this hard to believe because she planned our night to consist of sushi by the ocean and watching the sunset. I mean - sushi (a meal you share: super romantic) and the beach & sunset?! C'mon! I remember suggesting to order an unusual item off the menu, so we settled on eel. And Alida just rolled with it. (Pun intended - that one's for you Beej). I know it's a small thing, but it gave me a glimpse into Alida's adventurous and relaxed spirit which is really attractive. 

Fun side note: as a true Albertan, I'm pretty sure I've only had sushi 3 times before this "date". I actually googled "how to eat sushi" beforehand (to not look like an imbecile in front of my potential wife - that was my literal thought, I'm not even kidding). Did you know? Sushi is meant to be eaten with your fingers (chopsticks pass though); meant to be eaten as soon as it's prepared (i.e. takeout sushi is frowned upon by purists); and, please do not go crazy on the soy sauce - it's offensive to the chef. 

A: I walked away from that night feeling hugely encouraged and honestly, quite surprised. I had never had a first conversation feel so effortless or safe. I was pretty blown away by who Nick was (he hiked mountains! he played hockey! he talked about missions and the nations and his relationship with Jesus with such ease and passion! he had a great sense of humour!) and I was certainly taken aback by that smile and his laid back and kind demeanour. But he was in Edmonton. And I lived in Vancouver. And I didn't even know if this was a date or not and had no idea what he was thinking. So I drove home from the beach desperately trying to not overthink all of it and trying to convince myself that this was just meant to be an encouragement that guys "like Nick" were out there.

N: I knew by the end of the night I wanted to see Alida again. Everything went so well: good food, I didn't spill, easy and encouraging conversation, and Alida stayed the whole night! Brady was absolutely correct when he told me that Alida and I had a bunch in common: running, hiking, mountains, missions, and a sports fan?! What?! I was blown away.

I remember that Alida literally jumped up from the log we were sitting on the instant I mentioned that I'd been to Uganda and loved East Africa. I should have known right then and there that she was in to me because who feels that comfortable to that kind of thing on a first date? What I knew is that I didn't want this to be our last conversation. So the whole drive back to my sister's place in Burnaby I knew I had to think of a way to be in Vancouver again soon. And one fell in my lap a few days later as I learned that the 2017 medical school hockey tournament was going to be held in Vancouver at UBC. There it was! A miracle. I could tell Alida I just "happened" to be in the area and take her on a second date without her even knowing it.

A: I tell Nick a lot that he's my favourite surprise, because I had no idea that he was coming. And I certainly never thought I'd be willing to move away from Vancouver (and to Edmonton of all places!) for a guy. Now I just laugh at God's sneakiness in that.

We both felt really early on that God's hand was clearly in this. And the more we talked and spent time together, the clearer and clearer that became. We started booking as many weekends together as possible (you're welcome, WestJet), carved out as much space as we could to introduce each other to our family and close friends, and, pretty quickly, started talking, praying, and dreaming about where this was going long term.

When did you "know"?

N: I knew Alida was "the one" when she didn't correct my grammar when we were messaging back and forth during our first month together. Kidding. I actually knew Alida was the person I wanted to be with in September. I actually have a screenshot of it saved on my phone. It was just a simple and encouraging text while I was studying for my first final exam of the year. After I read it I felt supported in a way I've never felt before and it was then when I knew I wanted to team up with Alida, forever. If you're into timelines, that exam was at the end of September which meant "I knew" about a month and a half after meeting Alida. I know, I know, super cheesy. All of the following weekends spent together only confirmed what I knew back in September.  

A: It wasn't a single moment for me, but there are a few moments that stand out that made me realize I was definitely falling in love with Nick and that he's who I want(ed) to spend the rest of my life with. One was over Thanksgiving weekend and seeing Nick interact with my little cousins - he jumped right into their beautiful crazy and goofed off with them and then read them books for hours while they hung all over him. Or when I texted him on a particularly stressful day at work and he sent a challenging, but incredibly encouraging response - that made me feel so seen and championed, but also pointed me to Jesus and the invitation of the Kingdom to do hard things well. Or when he took me for a sunrise over Vermilion Lakes in Banff and even brought a french press to make coffee (and he doesn't even like coffee himself). Or when he cried with me over my Dad not getting to be here for any/all of this. Or how easily & cheerfully he gave up going to the Flames-Canucks game that he bought us tickets for (a big deal for us!) so he could come to a wedding of one of my close friends with me. I think I just kept catching these glimpses of him in different contexts that showed me the depth of his character and heart.  

Proposal:

N: Alida has simple, nay, straightforward and obvious tastes, Seriously, after talking with her for 15 minutes you figure out pretty quickly that all she needs to be happy is a view of mountains or the ocean. I couldn't think of a better weekend to propose than Easter weekend. I mean, it's Easter, her very best friend was in town, and we were camping in Alida's favourite spot in the world (Porteau Cove). The proposal had all of Alida's favourites: ocean, mountains, sunrise, coffee, and camping. It was a pretty simple decision - almost as easy of a decision as marrying Alida. By far, it was the most excited I've ever been to wake up at 6 in the morning! 

A: Behind the scenes is that Nick actually started the process of his proposal almost two months before Easter. He started sending me letters recapping every weekend we had been together - complete with flight information and little souvenirs from whatever we did and his commentary on what each weekend entailed and the development of our relationship. Each letter talked about the future and included dreams/prayers for our lives together, and I now have a stack of letters recapping the entirety of our relationship from the first day to the day he proposed, which I love! On Easter morning when we were at Porteau Cove and hiked up the little hill overlooking the ocean where he proposed, he gave me the last envelope in person and it had the date (April 1, 2018) and simply said: "This is the weekend I ask you to marry me." The rest? Well: I said yes. :)

Favourite things about each other?

A: Do I have a word count? Easily my favourite thing about Nick is his steady and rooted love for Jesus and the way that that relationship flows into everything he is and does. He has this deep trust that God is exactly who He says He is and is one of the most compassionate, empathetic, and generous people I know. He believes for the best in people, authentically cares about their stories, and doesn't just talk about justice and loving the marginalized, he actually structures his life around ways he can build relationships with them.  He makes me laugh - all.the.time. He loves life and lives with a contagious joy, reminds me to not take myself or life too seriously, and is the biggest support for my work, passions, and all the dreams I aspire to. He's humble and doesn't even know how brilliant and kind and hard-working he is. He loves mountains and sports and being outside, which is the best! He loves me and supports me and challenges me (in good ways!) in ways that humble me and encourage me and is one of the clearest examples of God's generosity and grace in my life. Also, those ocean blue eyes, that smile, & that athletic build...

N: Alida is intelligent, passionate, athletic, beautiful, down-to-earth, tall, loving, supportive, confident, considerate, self-aware, and selfless. Need I say more? No. But I will. The second sentence Alida ever spoke to me was about Jesus and how much He meant to her. I was still a stranger to her! So one of my favourite things about her is her confidence in who God is and who she is in Christ. The way Alida loves other people is... is... is... I can't even describe it! Her love for others goes beyond my comprehension. Alida's love and inclusion of others is the way God intends us to love others - that's the most accurate explanation I can give. And that's probably my favourite thing about Alida if I had to choose only ONE thing. But there's more (of course). Another one of those things is that we share favourite things! Everything that I enjoy Alida is right there keeping up with me and everything she wants to do, I want to do too.

______

So, seeing God's grace and leading all over this, we're getting married August 19th, 2018, in beautiful Vancouver, BC! After our wedding we'll be living in Edmonton, AB while Nick is in Dental School at the University of Alberta and where Alida will continue to work with CLAC (transferring to the Edmonton office at the end of August 2018).

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tWENTY-EIGHT

Someone asked me a few days ago how this new year feels, not an unfamiliar question at all, but one that actually left me without a response for a while. All I could say is "awe - this year feels like awe and celebration and baffled gratitude."

I'm having a really hard time moving past that lately. I don't know how else to describe all that I get to hold on to right now. Or the space where I now get to build my home. 

Twenty-eight finds me in the midst of transition and expectation and the edge of a new season. It meets me with a depth of love and beauty in community and life that I'm still baffled and humbled is mine. Utterly blown away by what God has done here: something so deep and freeing and new and almost entirely unrecognizable from where things were before. 

I spent so many years in a space of brokenness that I began to believe that was my home. I saw God's faithfulness is the wreckage and met Him in the depths of grief and illness and loss and surrender. He was faithful and life was weighty and messy and hard. And somewhere along the line, I think I started believing that that was my story: even holding to it because it was familiar and comfortable. 

But you know what 27 has taught me? Your life isn't limited to one narrative. And we rob ourselves and miss out on a chance to see the redemptive power of God at work, when we tell the incomplete narrative of a single story.

Sometimes war zones turn into gardens.
Sometimes the sun does rise on dark nights that feels impossibly long. 
Sometimes stories pivot and change and find new life in directions unexpected.

I know, because I've lived it. I'm living it.

She's still here: the girl with scars and bruises on her heart, permanently marked by loss and an ache that will never fully subside (in the best way). She learned through a lot of trial and error that grief brave and beautiful, that courage looks far more dynamic that I could have previously understood, that the messiness of life isn't something to run away from (for it's only there where we truly find what it means to be alive without pretense or presupposition) & that Hope is real and robust and hard-fought. That story will always be mine. But it's different now. 

I used to read the end of Ephesians 3 and think of the idea of God doing "abundantly more than we can ask or imagine" as a forward-looking hope. But now I cling to it as my own story: still looking forward to the perfection of future hope, but entirely and completely blown away by the ways God works right here in real time and in our very midst. 

Blown away and in Awe of Him.

28: here we go!

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on leaving, going, & the bittersweet space of goodbye.

I get married in less than three months. 

And move to a new province a week after that. 

Each of those statements is weighty and exciting and joy-filled. But each is equally growing and challenging and new: in the way that anything new is equally thrilling and terrifying. 

I have nothing but peace and confidence and the utmost of excitement in marrying Nick. Our story certainly isn't what I expected, but with every passing day, the sheer grace and generosity of Jesus in it leaves me almost baffled. Learning and choosing to love another person is proving to be one of the single greatest endeavours of my life: and one of the deepest joys too. And I'm fully aware that we're just getting started here, forming and building a life together in pursuit of Jesus and of each other through all that life will bring our way.  

But choosing to love and learning to love has been more of an adjustment than I expected too. In beautiful ways and in bittersweet ways too. In ways that have challenged my weaknesses and emphasized my strengths at the same time. 

Life is a learning curve, that's for sure. And Jesus seems rarely content with letting us get comfortable or complacent, always inviting us into growth and into new and deeper ways of becoming love. And if I'm learning anything in this season, it's that His invitations, while sometimes daunting, always result in knowing Him more fully and seeing Him more accurately. 

And that journey? The journey of growing in our understanding of His love and growing in our lived-out expression of what it means to be love? That’s the goal of life, isn't it? 


I’m doing quite a bit of looking ahead these days – but also a lot of looking back and reflecting on the sheer goodness of God that got us here. And an equal amount of holding on desperately to this right-now space and savouring this place and the unique expression of life that’s been built here.

I didn't move to Vancouver with a backup plan. I didn't have an exit strategy. I was a starry-eyed, dream-filled kid who felt the tug of the west coast and the call of God to put down roots here and invest as if this was my forever. 

So I did.

And it became home in a way that no place has ever been home before. I ache for this city. I've wept over this city. I've been absolutely frustrated with this city and the distinct challenges here. But, I absolutely love this city, with a love that I can’t shake and that has only grown over the past years.

It's home. The coast is forever in my veins.

It's the place that has been the backdrop to the most difficult and formative years of my life - but also some of the (simultaneously) most beautiful. The place where I found community and family with a depth and reach that I still can't quite wrap my head around. It's where I've been a part of two church communities that have shaped me and moulded me in profound ways and that moved me out of my skepticism of the church (as an establishment) into a deep love for and commitment to the local church. It’s a place where I failed and grew and took risks and where growing in maturity and faithfulness often felt like a relentless grind and still somehow a joy-filled adventure all at the same time.

It's the place where I saw a gathering of a group of friends passionate about worship (in all of life) grow into a movement and where we stood back with humbling gratitude for what God was doing in our midst. Where I learned - over and over and over (and still learning) in paradigm shifting ways - that Kingdom life looks less like “big” moments of breakthrough, but more often mean the steady rhythms of savouring Jesus, showing up, clinging to hope, fostering joy, and practicing gratitude.

It's the place where summers meant spending every possible moment at the beach or in the mountains, where springtime painted the city pink with the soft hues of cherry blossoms, and where winters meant getting well acquainted with rain and Gore-Tex and still going outside even when it's wet. It’s the place where I got to cheer on the Whitecaps and Canucks as a local. Where I've studied and worked and have seen God slowly and graciously (amidst a lot of stumbling and fumbling) bring direction to my vocation - and more importantly, redefined my definition(s) of success and achievement. It’s where God redefined my identity and captured my heart with a vision for Himself even before a vision for his mission.

It's the place that holds the winding coastal roads and rocky beaches and mountain trails where I processed grief and burnout and sickness and where God, slowly and graciously, rebuilt things that once felt irreparably broken. It's the place where I've made my home in tiny urban apartments and in the green house on the corner shared with incredible women - with backyard fire-pits and late-night chats, and the irreplaceable joy of getting to live only a floor away from my big sister. It's the place of coffee shops where I'm a regular, the running routes I can run on autopilot, and the countless places I go back to again and again because they feel like coming home. 

And now I'm leaving. Fading northeast at the end of this summer because I fell in love with an Alberta boy and starting our lives together as husband and wife now means making our home, for a few years at least, in Edmonton.

As it turns out, picking up roots that you let grow very deep is not an easy process: at all.  

I think I've been slowly processing the transition - grieving what I'm leaving behind as much as I look forward to what's ahead. I’ll be honest: my heart is having a really hard wrapping itself around the weight of what I’m leaving behind. It's bittersweet. Simultaneously lined with more joy than I expected and also far more sadness than I anticipated as well.

I have to learn to let go of the proximity I have to my community: to the regular morning workouts and the lunch-break catch-ups and the sea wall walks after work or the slow days with my roommates. I have to let go of the ability to jump on my bike and ride to the beach and the long weekend hiking trips in the Coastal Mountains and the runaways to Whistler even for a day or to jump in a lake off the Sea-to-Sky highway. I have to let go of the indescribable comfort of being surrounded by people who know you well and love you deep and the friends and colleagues that make up the rhythm of life and work and ministry here. And I have to believe that God will sustain those deep bonds across time and distance. I have to let go of dreams (and even some expectations) that I had for life here, not knowing if/when God might lead us back.

I have nothing but confidence that God is going before us in all of this and I don't have adequate words to say how much I can't wait to do life, for always and in all contexts, with Nick. He was an easy choice. But the cost is high. 

Worth it? Absolutely. 
Easy? Not even close.

Sometimes Jesus invites us into seasons of staying. Into years of putting down roots and building homes and looking forward with long-term vision. Sometimes faithfulness means a long obedience in the same place. And sometimes He asks us to trust Him and step into the unknown. Into the new. Into the places we never expected to go, but find His Spirit leading us. Sometimes obedience - and invitation - means letting go.

It is, after all, about learning to lean into the joy and surrender of choosing and prioritizing His voice and His leading more than any other. He is the God who leads and sustains and surrounds us always with His presence and His goodness.


I don’t think I’m very good at goodbyes. I've had to say a lot, but I don't think that practice has made me particularly proficient. My Dad and I always had a deal that if we’d just leave a post-it note saying “I love you, see you soon” and leave without explanation or fanfare that we wouldn’t be disappointed. I never actually left that way, but I loved the idea – the attempt at a quick exit and a temporary farewell. (And the consequent ability to process the sadness in our own ways.)

I’m a dive-in fully girl, but I’m slowly learning to let go with the same faith that makes it so easy for me to grab hold of things. Turns out the act of leaving, the act of going, and the act of staying are all anchored in the same undercurrent of believing that God is good, endlessly faithful, and entirely trustworthy. The context might change, but the foundation remains.

I wish I could write a hundred post-it notes to my community and life in Vancouver, stained with tears and an attempt to express the depth of my love and appreciation and a P.S. I’ll be back soon. And that somehow that would make the transition feel less like letting go of a piece of my own heart. Yet, I suspect that the ache is an inevitable and even beautiful part of the process - and a reflection of love that went deep and is deep. 

I will be back. I know I will. We will be back, and that's even sweeter. But, I have no idea of the capacity or tenure of that stay and it's premature for me to make a return plan before - and only if - God leads us back. 

It’s painful, this act of leaving, but it’s so good too because it grows us and shapes us. And it’s so lined with hope and possibility and newness and the leading and promise of Jesus. 

I’m in awe of what God has done here, trying to root myself for as long as I possibly can in the joy-filled weight of gratitude for who He is and what He has done, knowing that the ache of goodbye isn't separate from that very same space. I holding on to the sweetness of what these next few months will hold: the transition, the continued rhythms of life here, the celebration of the love Jesus is building in Nick and I, and particularly the people who make my life so full and rich and more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be.

He’s never been anything but faithful. That’s never going to change.

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Shadow. Light. Celebration.

(Originally written as part of a writing + photography exhibit for Christ City Church's Good Friday Art Collective)

S H A D O W

The darkness is pervasive and deep.
 

Sin taunts.
Turmoil and anxiety are our constant friends.
Depression a weight we cannot shake.
Hopelessness the language most easily understood.

Wreckage feels normal.
The darkness is home almost.

Political Strife.
War.
Anger.
Hunger.
Poverty.
Cancer.
Jealousy.
Genocide.
Racism.
Rape.
Grief.
Human Trafficking.
Malice.
Greed.
Abuse.
Envy.
Miscarriage.
Hedonism.
Loneliness.

He is Dead: the skeptics scoff, laughing at naive hope.
He is Dead: the critics sneer, criticizing the romantic ideals of seeing life in this mess
He is Dead: the injustice screams, pointing to the worst of what we are.
He is Dead: my heart begins to wonder, question, weaken.
 

 

 

Where is peace?
Where is our rescue?
Where is the promise of new life?

Are we the foolish ones?
Are we the misguided dreamers?
 

 

All we see is shadow.
All we know is darkness.
All we witnessed was the death of the One we thought was our hope.


L I G H T

But there's a glimmer.
A glimpse almost, of new day dawning.
A ray of light in what seemed to be impenetrable darkness.

Warmth breaking in-between the dark of night and the light of day.
The thawing of ground too-long frozen.
Life breathed on bones deemed forever lifeless.
An end to the night that felt relentless and suffocating.

Could it be? This is mysterious, bellowing, powerful, and almost intimidating promise.
Could it be? This is middle space: unknown, yet laced with hope
Could it be? This is grief and this is joy sharing the same space
Could it be? All of history stands with bated breath.

Anticipating.
Watching.
Waiting.





Then comes the morning.

The sun peaks over the horizon, illuminating the world around in warmth.
The darkness is chased away, fading back into the shadows.
Soon gone entirely, the world illuminated in new light.

This is redemption.
This is rescue.
This is resurrection.





And, with the full light of the new day dawning, the world would never be the same.
No inch of human existence would ever be the same.


C E L E B R A T I O N

He's alive.
 

This is the greatest news the world will ever know.
The greatest reality that words will forever fail to describe.
Creation too stands in awe, as if to acknowledge that this: this changes everything.

God is alive.

He is Risen: resounding as a life-anthem for all who know the power of those words.
He is Risen: the whisper that echoes across creation as the sky dances and the seas rejoice.
He is Risen: sung on the lips of every nation, tribe, and tongue.
He is Risen: giving rise to dancing and singing and shouts of unrestrained joy.
He is Risen: the new foundation, definition, and standard of all hope.

He beat death.
He forever silenced sin.
He made a mockery of shame.

And in the aftermath: we make our homes in resurrection life.

Because of this. Because of Him.
Resurrection life is our permanent residence.

The darkness is no longer our home.
We are no longer strangers, aliens, or dead-men walking.
Hope is no longer hopeless, because Hope now has a name.

A new day has dawned.

We are known.
We are free.
We are rescued.
We are alive.
 

 

And in this life, in His resurrection Life, we now make our lives.

It's here where we anchor our hope.
It's here where we will never be disappointed.

Because of this, we finally know what life is.
Because of this, we finally know who Life is.
 

 

 

 

He is Risen: Let the whole world rejoice.

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five years.

Dad,

Five years.

Five.

How in the world are we here already? I feel like I write that every year. And yet every year I feel the same sense of disbelief and how-the-heck-is-time-passing-so-quickly? feeling. So far from where we were 5 years ago and yet, it doesn’t feel like it could possibly be that long ago already too.

You’re still so missed. So deeply missed.


Five years has taught me a lot, Dad.

I’ve grown up in this space in a way that’s hard to describe. Once cancer is part of your life, you can’t ever wash it away. You’re forever branded by its reality. There’s so much of it that we can’t control. It steals from us like the cruelest thief attacking both the old and the young, senselessly robbing us of years of life. It compromises the vigour and strength of so many who previously epitomized those very terms. And, at its very worst, it steals from us people we love, leaving us in its wake shakily trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces left behind.

For those of us left behind, though, the pain and grief remain a constant friend.

While the blows subside and heal with time, the word “cancer” is never neutral. It steals our innocence and at its worst, threatens to steal our wonder because the hurt and pain sometimes seems entirely inevitable and insurmountable - impossible even - to overcome.

Grief is a journey, it’s true.

They tell you that early on (but usually they tell you that when you’re so numb that you can hardly process anything). They tell you that you’ll never know when it’ll hit like a tidal wave or like a steady jab, or what emotions might come up in seemingly disconnected moments. And for five years I’ve learned that they’re right. Grief is about as inconsistent as west coast weather. And sometimes feels as relentless as this west coast winter rain.

But grief is also a beautiful mystery.

A beautiful, life-shaping, priority-setting, paradigm-realigning kind of mystery that strips away so much pretense and leaves us raw before God. Desperate in ways we don’t tend to go or can’t get to on our own.

It’s a profound mystery of paradoxical contrasts.

In suffering, we find peace.
In death, we find life.
In grief, we find celebration.
In lament, we find joy.
In agony, we find refuge.
In pain, we find comfort.

This isn’t only credit losing you, but I’ve learned and now know and emphatically believe this: the world is darker, more fundamentally broken, and more heartbreaking than we can handle.

The darkness is heavy. It's is all around us. It threatens us on all sides.

Grief has taught me that the darkness is more real than I gave it credit for before.

But consistent with the mystery of the whole process, grief and loss and pain has also taught me, in ways that few things could, that Hope is also more real, weighty, stunning, and absolutely necessary than I ever knew it could be before either.

What do we do here? How do we live in the middle space of hope and lament?

Honestly, I still don’t know.

But I do know that in the narrow vision of tragedy teaches us to look beyond what we can see, beyond what we can feel, and sometimes even beyond what we can comprehend. It teaches us to anchor our lives in the unfolding narrative of God’s goodness across all nations and all time and space. Pain teaches us to hold with desperation to the promises of Revelation 21. To root our lives and our energy in the reality that one day – one glorious day! – He will make all things new.

Pain teaches you that the road is hard and tough – longer and far more difficult than we often know until we have to walk it – but it also teaches you that nothing is made better when we don’t step up or step into authentic relationship. Suffering reminds you in a really tangible way that an imperfect offering is better than no offering at all.

Loss has taught me to slow down and take more time to remember His faithfulness: to linger in the remembering of all the moments and memories where God has met me, sustained me, and provided for me. It’s taught me to worship and it’s taught me to weep, and it’s taught me that those things aren't mutually exclusive realities. 

Pain has taught me that weakness is both inevitable and unavoidable, but more importantly, that it’s not shameful – and often even looks like freedom. It’s taught me that in acknowledging weakness - reveling in it even - I can know Jesus in ways I couldn’t when I tried to hold it all together. It’s teaching me still what it means to be boldly weak and to rest and heal and come back to Jesus again and again and again in it all.

Grief has taught me to look to the life of Jesus. To look long and slow and carefully and to pay close attention to the way He taught us to live, the way He defines success, and the things he spent his time and effort and energy on. It’s taught me to make my home in the character of the Saviour King who governs over all of creation with compassion and justice and perfect love. It’s taught me to value the wisdom of the saints of old and to cherish the bold visions of the prophets. It’s taught me to savour creation – slowly and consistently and joyfully - and the ways it echoes and resounds with God’s power and sufficiency and intricate care.

It’s taught me – maybe more than anything else - that Hope has a name. And this Hope, anchored in the person of the Living God, is persistent and resilient and weighty. And, even when circumstances appear in opposition to that reality: Nothing can silence that hope. Nothing can outrun that love. Nothing can snuff out that light. Nothing.


You know that moment we talked about years ago – full of theoretical speculation and hope? The thing we’d talk about on hikes and around fires and that you loved to tease me about even though you never got to see even the beginning stages unfold? The moment we looked forward to that someday I might get to look you in the eyes and tell you that I found the guy you and Mom have been praying for my whole life? The moment you’d get to tease me that your daughter was in lovvvvvve and I’d get to tell you all about him?

Well. Yes to all of the above… :)

And there are a thousand things I want to tell you and ask you, but I’ll (try to) keep it to a few:

I want to tell you that you were right. (You’d love that, eh?) That the timing and providence of God unfolds in surprising and unexpected ways, but is absolutely worth trusting. That learning to love someone and getting to begin to build a life together is a wild and sweet and challenging and entirely incredible gift.

And, even more than that - you were right that love like this certainly isn’t a necessity. It hasn’t changed the depth and beauty of God’s heart for me at all. His faithfulness isn’t any more real now than it ever has been. Nick being in my life hasn’t changed the stunningly extravagant grace of God in any way whatsoever. God didn’t need to give me Nick, but He did and it’s humbling and overwhelming grace. And I’m starting to learn and see more and more of what you meant when you used to say that the love you got to share with Mum was a gift from God on a whole different level than every other expression of His love.

I want to tell you that you’d love him. There’s no doubt in my mind. You’d love his love for life and care for people. His deep kindness and chivalry and generosity. His sense of humour and the way he loves Jesus in a way that makes me want to love Him more - and lives His life as an overflow of that rooted love. You’d love that he loves the mountains as much as I do and rides bikes and runs long distances and he sees me and supports me and chooses me in ways that blow me away. And, you’d love that he’s a hockey player and sports fan, even though he is a loyal Flames supporter (hey, no one is perfect, eh?).

You have a lot in common, actually, which certainly isn’t a surprise. You’re both passionate and generous, men of integrity, have an insatiable sweet tooth, and devote so much of your time to serving and caring for other people – often as your default. You both have a rooted and steady love for Jesus. You’re both tall and athletic and remind me - by example but also with your insight and encouragement – to not take life too seriously and to savour joy and goodness and the right now.

I want to say thank you (for the thousandth time). I see this with a clarity now that I couldn’t fully when you were still here, but I learned the most about the heart of the Father by growing up with your love around me. And I'm learning more than I knew I would about the love of God that chooses and cherishes us through the love God is building in us. And hands-down the best gift in all of that is the way that the two men I love(d) the most point me to the heart and character of God Himself. There's nothing sweeter or more humbling than the way that He’s made Himself known to me in tangible, deep and entirely beautiful ways through the care and love of both of you.

And I want to tell you (in a way that carries a different weight now) that I’m even more thankful for the love that you and Mum built together. You both gave me a picture of a marriage pursuing the heart of Jesus can look like – and it’s an example that I’m carrying forward. 

I want to tell you that every part of me hates that you aren’t a part of this. Nick hates it too. We’ve wept over the reality of you never getting to be a part of this. And, even though it’s not directly his story – he has stepped into the grief and pain of this with me. It’s our story now. Not just mine, but ours. And because of that I’m missing you in a whole new way now. Painfully aware of the gap of where I wish you could be and the relationships with you that will never be. I’ve wept a lot about you never getting to know him or him getting to know you.

What was theoretical before is real now: and that stings with a pain that’s hard to describe.

You’re supposed to be with Mum when I tell you guys all about this man that’s captured my heart. You’re supposed to give me your wisdom and share this excitement. You’re supposed to talk hockey with him and talk about Jesus together and I’m supposed to get to see the two men I love most in the whole world in the same space having a conversation. I’m supposed to get to ask your advice and insight on all of our dreams and plans and some big decisions that we have to make. He’s supposed to ask both of you – together – for your blessing over our lives together. You’re supposed to walk me down the aisle and dance with me when I wear a white dress.

But those “supposed to be’s” simply won’t be.

Five years later and the gap is still cruel and painful. The ripple effect is long. And every year the fullness of what cancer so cancer stole from us becomes more and more obvious.


Guess what? January 22nd is Nick’s birthday.

The same day that marks the end of your life is the day that marks the beginning of his.

When I first found out I didn’t really know how to process that reality. How could a day so marked by loss and pain hold the same space on the calendar as the celebration of the life of the man I now love?

But the more I think about it, the more I love that overlap.

You know why? Because it feels like a microcosm of life. The overlap of life and death. The constant tension of joy and lament. Of celebration and mourning. Of darkness mixed with light.

And it’s in that very mix and tension that God meets us. Where God always meets us. Where the joy of the gospel shines with the weighty goodness that it’s always meant to carry.

And it’s there too that I’m reminded that this day really is a day of celebration for you too. The deepest and most beautiful celebration of being-forever-in-the-presence-of-Jesus kind of celebration.

One of the things you left with me was the habit and reminder that, given the choice between celebrating life and marking death, the choice is simple: Choose celebration and choose joy.

I’ve tried to do that with the way I mark this day every year (immersed in creation, surrounded by good friends, and with delicious food), but now I have even more reason to celebrate this day. Who would have guessed that a single day on the calendar will forever be shared by the life and legacy of the incredible man who was my father and the incredible man I love?

With both of you, I’m baffled-and-blow-away thankful that you are (and were) mine.


I still hear you in my head a lot. There are still countless moments when I’d swear you’re still with us by how clear your advice feels in my mind. Except it’s not even all that much advice anymore, just a chorus of encouragement: to sink deep, to love deeply, to take risks, to savour Jesus, and to not be afraid to keep moving forward, even when – maybe especially when – that forward is away from you.

We are moving forward, Dad. And while the distance away from you still aches, the steps forward are lined with life and goodness and so much beauty. I wish you could see it.

We’re moving forward into deeper understandings of what it means to make our homes in His presence. Into deeper glimpses of His beauty and majesty and awe. Into more surrendered worship, even more desperation for Him, and a continual reshaping of identity and dreams in light of who He is. Inching our way closer to the day we get to see him face-to-face and the day we’ll be reunited in His presence.

One thing I ask. One thing I seek: to know Him. to taste and see of His goodness. To revel in the unfathomable reaches of who He is and the baffling & humbling reality that He dwells with us and makes Himself known to us.


Five years out from the last day we held your hand and told you we loved you, and I mostly just want to tell you that Jesus has never been more beautiful. And I want to revel in His goodness together. Or I guess more accurately, I’m coming to see and know and savour His beauty in ways I never have before. Maybe part of that is the life that comes five years into this journey. Maybe that’s the new song that’s coming out of humbling redemption. Maybe it’s the way it feels like so much of life used to feel like wreckage and war-zones and now is lined with wildflowers and more tangible beauty than I quite know how to wrap my head around. His redemption and healing and goodness are vast and deep. And there really is nothing that compares to knowing him and being known by Him.

Last week I couldn’t get the simple lyrics of the song “How Marvelous!” out of my head – singing and meditating on the line “How wonderful, how marvelous is my Saviour’s love for me!” over and over and over. There really isn’t a more beautiful or powerful reality, eh?

That’s the banner over our lives, Dad. That’s the banner over yours – a life marked by the love of the Father and a steady and passionate delight in that love. And that’s the banner over my life too: the unrelenting, unfathomable, and absolutely extravagant of Saviour Jesus.

His steadfast love is our anchor. His steadfast love is our delight.

Miss you always and love you forever, Dad. 

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Top Albums of the Year [2017]

1. The National - Sleep Well Beast:
Usually the choice for my top album of the year is a particularly tough one, but this year it was actually a pretty easy choice. I'm relatively delayed in my realization of the National's brilliance, but this year was a beautiful education - with their whole album history yes, but particularly with the project they've pulled together in Sleep Well Beast. This album is both weary and refreshing, managing to be brooding and inspiring in the same layered space. The strategic inclusion of synth with the more traditional orchestral tones is complex to say the least. But it gripped me and keeps doing so every time I listen. Carin at the Liquor Store is among my top songs of the year, but the full project is simply phenomenal. Bonus notes: The LP is physically beautiful: this one truly feels like unwrapping a treasure every time.

2. Fleet Foxes - Crack Up:
Fleet Foxes' third album had my attention from its first released single, which admittedly, is an unusual things for me, as I'm an album girl first. This one is textured and complex, but there's a depth and dimension to the whole thing that that made it a project I kept coming back to. And, in reality, the full album is the true treasure: a complete package of density: from the layers of sound to the comtemplative lyrics to the sweeping orchestral components that weave throughout. This was another 2017 concert gem too (on a clear night in Stanley Park with my dear friend, Chandler) and the show was, as expected, phenomenal. The craziness & brilliance of their band is certainly obvious (the amount of instruments being played is unreal), but it's also the best show I've ever seen when it came to transitions throughout their entire set - and Robin Pecknold was even sick that night. That's just impressive.

3. Vancouver Sleep Clinic - Revival:
Vancouver Sleep Clinic was my best music discovery of 2016 (I instantly fell in love with the emotive sound that could best be described as a a combination of Bon Iver, Sigur Ros, & James Blake) and when Tim Bettinson released his first full album in 2017, I was beyond excited. Revival is beauty from beginning to end: packed full of Bettinson's ambient and ethereal sound, but with some bigger moments and dramatic builds that serve to give compelling substance to the whole project. Lung is among the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Not joking. And Unworthy? That string build still gives me chills. Now just to get this Aussie to come to Canada (and the city for which he named his band!) for a tour...

4. Novo Amor, Ed Tullet - Heiress:
This album. Is it a cop-out to just say it's wildly beautiful and 45 minutes of goodness? The combo of Novo Amor & Ed Tullet (recorded over an impressive 3-year period) doesn't result in a particularly unpredictable project if you've heard either of their previous work (and the Tullet connections to Bon Iver are certainly obvious in the sound), but it's still sweeping and atmospherically stunning. From Silvery to Alps to Terraform to Dancer: this one is gold. 

5. James Vincent McMorrow - True Care:
I think JVM and I have a pretty simple and long-established relationship that goes something like this: I love everything he releases. True Care is no exception and was the best surprise since he released another (phenomenal!) album in 2016. I love that JVM continues to reach for new dimensions and sounds as an artist. Also, a group of my friends chipped in for my birthday to buy me tickets to his show in Vancouver in August (a truly amazing gift!) where he played the entirety of this album from beginning to end. It was simply incredible. This album has never sounded the same since.

6. Taylor Swift - Reputation:
I know, I know. The old Taylor is dead. And I love.love.love old Taylor. And I'll admit, when the single of LWYMMD first came out, I was skeptical and a tad nervous for how the new album would unfold. But I kept listening. And her creative genius became more and more evident. And when the full album finally dropped, I quickly knew that TS6 was not only a great album, but possibly Taylor's most mature, risky, and creative album to date.

Also, the history keener in me is still in awe of the French Revolution imagery (alluding to Eugène Delacroix's "Leading the People") in her LWYMMD music video. And New Years Eve - the quietest and most powerful track on album - joins Last Kiss and All Too Well as definitive evidence that no one writes a emotive and narrative-driven ballad quite like Taylor.

7. Oh Wonder - Ultralife:
Oh Wonder is a cheerful and yet thought provoking mix of R&B, singer/songwriter, electronic, and minimalist sounds, with deeply thoughtful lyrics. Ultralife, even more so than their first album, is a melodical and lyrical exploration into what it means to be human and to be human together. It's comforting and compelling and I've only come to appreciate these two Brits and their sound more with every new project. 

8. Iron & Wine - Beast Epic:
Sam Beam was one of my first Indie-folk loves and in Beast Epic, he reminds me of all the reasons why. This project is a return to the acoustic instrumentation and romanticism of his early work, a certain element of lyrical whimsy that is notably introspective. It's warm and welcoming and yet defiant in a way that comes with the tenure and boldness of an artists' 6th project. In the record’s forward, he writes an incredibly accurate description of what this project looks like:“The ferris wheel keeps spinning and we’re constantly approaching, leaving or returning to something totally unexpected or startlingly familiar.”

9. Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins: 
Painted Ruins is an expansive and harmonious project that's truly engaging the entire way through. It's a visionary album: pulling on far-off imagery and deep-rooted emotions, but almost sporadic in the way it dreams big. And the percussion on this album? It's rare for that to be something worth noting on its own, but the layered harmonies, creativity, and almost counter intuitive consistency of the percussion throughout is truly something noteworthy. Tracks I can't get enough of: Three Rings and Neighbors.

10. Feist - Pleasure:
I fell in love with Feist's work early on, when her music felt like sunny days and sweet innocence (1234, anyone?). Like any phenomenal artist, however, she's grown immensely and expanded beyond the sound that first gave her her start. Her newest project, Pleasure, presents a gritty bluesy rawness that's gripping. In some ways this album is messy and dark and seems almost unfinished, but the more I listened to it, the more I came to see that those are the very realities that made it so good. 

Honourable Mentions:

Sylvan Esso - What Now:
Sylvan Esso is one of my favourite musical contradictions. I was thinking of how to best describe her music a few days ago and I think I said something like folksy-synth-indie-pop with a romantic soul and introspective mind. It's hard to describe, but if there's a project well suited to introduce you to Amelia Meath's narrative-driven contemplative lyrics and the quirky contradiction (and yet it works!) in the complexity, curiosity, and coziness of her sound, What Now is it.

Kendrick Lamar - Damn:
I ventured into the world of Hip Hop (beyond my go-to's in Chance and Macklemore) more in 2017 than any year prior. I have my persuasive hip-hop loving boyfriend to "blame" for that one. But really, I'm pretty thankful, because I learned to listen to these songs and artists in a different way after hearing someone rave about the depth of the skill and artistry in their work. And it's so true. Damn is compelling and heartbreaking and, quite honestly, just phenomenal.

Henry Jamison - The Wilds:
Switching gears significantly from the sounds of the two previously describe albums, The Wilds is a simple stunner, reminding me countless times throughout of the haunting comfort that is Americana done well. This project plays like Jamison's millennial reflections on life, love, place, and the entirely mundane beauty that make up our lives - and in his guitar driven ponderings, he gives us a deeply comforting soundtrack to our own memories and experiences. Also, any songwriter who can use words like "“elegiac” and phrases like “the fallacy of form” without an ounce of pretension deserves some significant credit.

Beck - Colours:
Beck is one of my go-to "doesn't fit in a box" artists. I feel like he's an all-over-the-place eccentric friend that loves to dance, but who is also a quiet genius and I can't help but be in awe of his confidence and the ease of his creativity. Colours is fun and easily the most danceable of all the albums on this list (oh hey there, electro-pop), and is certainly an even more electronically driven sound than this 2014 Morning Phase, but it still feels fresh and consistently interesting. Noteable tracks: Dear Life, Wow.

Zac Brown Band - Welcome Home:
ZBB is my favourite country band. Easily. And Welcome Home felt like a resurgence of the classic bluesy, home-grown sound that makes them so unique. These guys are the soundtrack to summer for me and their range - from country ballads to their hard-hitting rock & roll collaborations (with the likes of artists such as Dave Grohl) show a range that sets them apart in a genre that can, too often, be far too one dimensional. I also finally got to see them live this summer and we had pit tickets, which meant we were metres away from the stage - and the flawless performance - the entire time. It was easily one of the best shows I've ever been to. They're better live then they are recorded and I'd turn around and see them again in a heartbeat.

U2 - Songs of Experience:
U2 is U2. No album of theirs will ever be Joshua Tree (let's be real, no album by anyone anywhere will be Joshua Tree), but after a few slightly disappointing albums over the past few years, Songs of Experience was a pleasant surprise - coming back to the roots of a band that taught me most of what I know and love about rock. And the collaboration with Kendrick on the transition between Get Out of Your Own Way and American Soul: unreal. 

Eric Church - 61 Days in Church:
This technically isn't a studio album, but it's a tour released album with 61 songs from the Chief's 2017 Tour. I'm including it here first, because it's just good and second, because I was at his Vancouver show in May and this takes me back. Church is rock & roll meets country meets soul and I'm always reminded that he is in a league all his own in the "country" world. Also, he closed his 3 hour (!!!) show with Loves Me Like Jesus Does and I just about lost my mind (and at that point, had already lost my voice).

WORSHIP, etc:

Hillsong United: Wonder:
My words for 2017 were: Awe & Wonder, so when this album was released in the spring, I legitmately laughed because it fit so closely with what God was already stirring in my heart. The first single(s) of Wonder were released when I was on my way home from Nepal and I remember listening to them (and JVM's) album on repeat the whole (lonnnnnnng) trip home. When the whole album was released, the almost daily listen continued deep into the fall and it remains one of my most listened to - and influential - albums of the year. Also, So Will I (100 Billion X) was easily THE song of the year for me.

“Have we lost the Wonder?—the hope, the imagination to dream, to believe—the tenderness to listen and lead first with mercy—the grace to empathise—the courage to trust—the fearlessness to love, without pretence or condition. To see beyond the facts without dismissing them. To respond beyond the fear without reciprocating it. To sing beyond the noise, without adding to it. This is the challenge, and this is what worship—if worship can be summed up as an expression of art and music and story—is ultimately designed to do. To elevate the conversation, re-awaken the soul to something other, and lift our eyes to the wonder of a superlative Truth.” - Joel Houston

Will Reagan & United Pursuit - Tell All My Friends:
Will Reagan & UP albums are always beautiful in a deeply formative way. And always seem to become the soundtrack to a season of my life. Tell All My Friends was absolutely that, easily landing itself among my most listened to albums of the year. Particular noteworthy songs: Nothing Without You and Not in a Hurry.

Emilie Weiss - A Song of Ascent:
Technically, an EP, but a solid enough one that I'm letting it make the cut. The lyrics read like poetry and the melodies slow you down and draw you in. This one was the soundtrack to so many early morning walks by the ocean and many quiet nights at home.

Beautiful Eulogy - Worthy:
Beautiful Eulogy at it again, weaving together an album of beauty. These lyrics? The transitions? The narratives painted in the songs? This one has been played over and over and over and I don't expect to remove it from my regular rotation any time soon.

Jessie Early - Wild Honey:
Discovering Jessie Early was one of my top music discoveries this year. This album stopped me mid-work multiple times because I got caught up in the lyrics and sound: a unique electronic meets folk combination. "If you can raise Lazarus up from the dead, surely you can raise up the cynical graves in my head..."

Elevation Worship - Acoustic Sessions:
This album has to make the list credit the sheer amount of air time it received. A lot of my favourites released by Elevation Worship in the past few years revamped for an acoustic session with a slightly less polished sound than most of their studio albums.
 

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Mountains Beyond Mountains: Nepal II

Our guide looked at me and laughed. “You really love the mountains,” he remarked.

“Of course I do!” I respond excitedly and without a second thought. “Who wouldn’t?!”

“No, but you really love the mountains,” he countered, in a way that I couldn’t quite tell if he was teasing me for being a keener or admiring my affection.

As if directly answering that thought though, he continued, “You can tell. And when you love our mountains, we are thankful.”

I had heard before we came that this is the sacred land of the Sherpa people, but no one can quite explain the way their ownership and pride for their home is palpable. I think you have to stand on these foothills and spend time with them to even begin to understand that. Many Sherpa people become mountain and trekking guides for the practical reason that tourism is the largest (and most lucrative) industry in this developing nation, but much of their motivation stems too from the belief that sharing these lands and this beauty with visitors is part of their sacred duty.  

I just kept my gaze fixed straight ahead, incapable of anything less than a huge smile -  still in awe, thinking to myself that there’s nothing in me that would allow me to not be completely in awe and taken aback by this kind of beauty.

This mysterious, bellowing, powerful, and almost intimidating beauty. And the ways that this beauty whispers and screams almost simultaneously of God’s goodness, power, and closeness.

It was that thin space between the dark of night and the light of the day: where the freezing cold air seemed to lose a bit of its bitter edge with each passing minute and every glimpse of sunshine over the domineering peaks. We had reached basecamp the previous day and this morning I had woken up early to catch a panoramic view of the Everest Range. As I did, I stood in the silence and made my way up a small side step that gave me the highest view I could find while maintaining sure footing, my eyes trying desperately to memorize every part of this vista: trying to retain the way the dark shadows of the mountain range mixed with the glowing and increasingly warm colours of the morning light making its way slowly over the horizon.

I wanted to remember every part of it: the smell of the crisp alpine air and the freezing temperature, the laboured breaths, and the way that the harsh wind made my whole face feel numb, but yet not so harsh that I could even dare imagine looking away.

I’d spent the past few days trying to memorize the deep blue alpine sky, the moodiness of the clouds that would move in and out of the mountain valley in mere minutes, and the strength of the sun’s rays when hiking at that high of an elevation. I wanted to remember every detail about this adventure: the collapsing into my tea house bed exhausted, eating Dal Bhat for multiple meals a day, meeting people from all over the world, the way Ginger Tea tasted like the best thing on the entire planet, long conversations with one of my dearest friends, laughing and processing and praying our way through every part of being in an unfamiliar city and country and in the backcountry of the Himalayas, the hours – when disconnected from the rest of the world - to just soak up Scripture, and the best schedule in the entire world when your whole day revolves around hiking. 

There’s nothing about the Himalayas that is subtle.

We hiked for a few days before we reached the “foothills” – mountains that themselves were profoundly noteworthy. But as you climb steadily higher and higher in elevation - trading dense evergreen forest and rainforest groves for rocky glaciers and limited fauna above the tree line - the peaks only seem to grow in stature and grandeur: jagged, powerful, and domineering.

These thundering masses of rock covered in masses of snow larger and taller than major buildings in most urban centres stand all around, their glacial siding almost metallic looking in the bright sun.

I spent the entirety of our time hiking in awe, with one dominant thought that I couldn't get past: His love is higher and wilder than the Himalayas.

Higher.
Wilder.

I stood on a massive glaciers, looking out at the wildest mountains my mind had ever seen and I couldn’t even begin to understand that. That these belowing peaks were only a glimpse of the depth and width and power of this wild and relentless love. I tried wrap my head around the reach of His majesty and splendour: but it's unknowable and unfathomable in the most incredible of ways. 

Eleven days of hiking felt like stepping into a song that creation has been singing since He breathed these Hills into being: a song of His indescribable worth.

All of creation stands in awe, as if it knows there’s nothing else we were made to do but stand baffled and humbled by this beauty for which words will forever fail. His thoughts are higher. His ways are better. The best we have is because of Him. The worst we have is redeemed by him, anchored in Him. Emmanuel is here: the sure and steadfast anchor of our souls. The Majestic King is our Redeemer: the very God for whom the mountains melt like wax. When we see his face - even the tiniest glimpse of him - everything changes. And so we worship: In all things. All places. All contexts. All moments.

From sea level and the depths of the ocean to the world's tallest peaks, to the ends of the earth, just down the street, and everywhere in between: His love is wild and His love is here and His love sets us free. 

I think Nepal has been a part of me for a long time in a way that I've never been able to articulate. It was a place I felt homesick for before ever setting foot within its borders. This trip only solidified that - like finding a piece of my own heart tucked into those majestic mountains. Seemingly disparate pieces of my story seemed to click together a bit while sipping tea with a group of incredibly resilient and beautiful Nepalese women, worshiping in prayer houses with friends from all over the globe, and the way that the streets of Kathmandu felt oddly familiar even though I had never walked them before.

It changed me. It echoes still.

Not solely because of Nepal itself, even though that is a part, but because of the timing of this trip and the way that the whole trip was joy and redemption with a depth and reach I'm (still) not able to convey. Because of the way God used that space to make Himself known in new and deeper ways. 

I’ve been home for over six months now, immediately thrown back into the busyness and rhythms of life on Canada’s west coast, work trips to the other side of the country, weddings and engagements and baby showers and parties and courses and days at home and summer by the water and hikes in the Coastal mountains and fall in the Okanagan, and the ever-changing and wonderfully surprising realities of life. 

But I think about Nepal often. Wake up missing those streets, the glow of the yellow sun setting over the Kathmandu Valley, and the chilling and enlivening power of the Himalayas up close. I wear the cobalt blue scarf that I was so generously given to me by those women (whose inspiration seeps into my life if ways they'll never fully know) all the time and every time I do, I feel - for even a passing moment - that I'm back.

I've long known that there’s a part of me that comes alive in the developing world. That a part of my heart ignites when surrounded by a culture that is not my own, a language I don’t understand, and dusty streets that aren’t easily navigated. Where physical poverty removes much of the polish or comfort of wealthy Western life, where the heartbeat of humanity feels a bit more raw, a bit grittier, and in so many ways, particularly beautiful. Maybe the madness is part of the magic. Amidst the chaos and dirt, there’s a fire to life that too quickly fades in the cleanliness and almost-sterility of the west. My life has been so profoundly shaped by other cultures and contexts, that homesick is a nearly constant feeling, regardless of where I am. 

So being in Nepal was, in some ways, like going home. A reset button. A three-week section of taking a step back and stepping into one task: awe and wonder. And, without question, those three weeks marked my life. I don’t know how else to say it. If the beauty of travel is the way that it shakes us out of our routines, opens our eyes to live with more focus and wonder, then Nepal accomplished that task ten-fold. It was the sweetest gift. 

The challenge of travel and adventure is here though too. How do we ensure that those things remain even after we settle back into the everyday spaces where we live our right-now, walking-around lives? How do we hold on to what stirs in our heart when we’re away? How does these extraordinary days point us to the reality that all of life is holy and the "ordinary" is equally lined with His presence and an invitation to live fully in His joy? 

Because we don't just climb mountains or fly to the other side of the world for the sake of adventure. We don't pursue the beauty of creation for its own sake. Creation was never meant to sing its own song or speak to a grandeur that it holds in itself. These mountains don't stand with a power that echoes to make much of the wilderness. The vastness of the ocean and the thundering glory of the waves don't pulse to draw attention to themselves. The beautiful diversity and colour and difference of the world's cultures do not exist to make much of huma It all exists: every part of it, if even just a whisper or a moment, to point us to the unfathomable beauty and power and majesty that is Jesus: to the God of the Nations. It's all for Him.

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Mountains are the language of my soul. 

I still remember the first time I saw the Canadian Rockies: mountains that in every way feel like home to me now. I remember so distinctly how my 15-year old heart felt more alive that I knew I could standing in the midst of those peaks, surrounded on all sides by snow-capped granite peaks, turquoise lakes, and dense forest groves.

It was beauty and freedom and power in a landscape. A glimpse into the unfathomable character of the very God who breathed these landscapes into life. It was awe made manifest in a physical surrounding, resonating more deeply in my heart and mind than I could every fully articulate. I remember feeling free and alive and so hopelessly taken with who Jesus was. It was a space that changed my life - and remains the thinnest of places for me – where the grace and goodness and power and majesty of Jesus feel almost close enough to touch.

Nepal is that now too: joining the ranks of the Rockies and the Coastal Mountains as the most profound spaces where God has met with me. 

The Himalayas hold a wonder that I want to hold on to for the rest of my life. An invitation to worship. A reminder that awe is both a responsibility and also the greatest of joys. To live with eyes open to the wonder and whimsy around us. With a relentless pursuit of the heart of this God who is so baffling in the scope and depth of His character and goodness. With a steady delight in His gospel that turns everything upside down and yet is the only thing that makes everything make sense too. 

His love is higher and wilder than the Himalayas. 

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on chronic illness, stability, & celebrating progress.

This week marks one year without any black outs.

It's a pretty silent marker, actually, but carries a weight that's hard to describe. Like a kilometre marker in the middle of a race, it's not something that stands out all that noticeably on its own, but still represents something pretty significant in its own right. Practically, it's progress that means a notable reduction in medication and treatment and a benchmark that removes all limitations on the intensity and duration of activity. It signals stability, which is a word and reality I'm honestly still not quite sure what to do with.

Chronic sickness is hard to live with, much to talk about.

How do you explain years of appointments, tests, and treatments, mostly with a lack of answers and the roller-coaster of improvements and challenges that unfold in a consistent back-and-forth battle? How do you articulate the fear you have to fight against almost daily and the days when it feels like sick is your new constant - the new normal you've been forced to live with, even though you'd do or try pretty much anything to see progress? How do you carry the weight of something that isn't easily seen, but that changes your reality entirely?

How do you quantify the hope that sprouts too - the days you hold tight to the promise that this won't be forever and the pain will eventually subside? Or the disappointment that comes when you don't see that improvement and the journey feels almost impossibly long?

How do you even begin to accurately convey the ways that Jesus makes Himself known to us in our pain, the paradoxical closeness with Him that takes root in the darkest places, or the depth of comfort that takes root in when you come to know - really really know - that in our weakness He really is unfathomably strong? How do you hold the tension of something so absolutely difficult right next to the sheer depth of the grace that comes from learning to lean more fully on this God who is absolute worthy of all our trust?

I have no idea. Nor do I have any idea why healing comes slow and often like a roller-coaster or sometimes, not at all. I don't know why sickness is so pervasive or why our bodies fall apart and fail us or hold us back. 

But, I do know this: Our God heals. Our God draws near. Our God turns weeping in to dancing and lament into songs of joy. Our God never abandons us to the darkness. And our God has the most incredible track record of making something shockingly beautiful out of mess and brokenness. And, I've learned - even thought the darkness is darker and heavier than we can imagine - that the light still shines with a stronger and more hopeful resiliency in all places, at all times, and against all odds. 

I've seen it - I'm seeing it - with my own eyes. And I can't really get past that. Or, past Him.


My health is as stable right now as it's been in years. It's not perfect certainly and this journey isn't (even remotely) over, but the sheer weight of those words and this reality isn't lost on me.

It's grace that feels deep and weighty: sickness doesn't feel like home anymore.

I trekked to Everest Base Camp this past spring without any complications - the fulfillment of a life-long dream and one of the sweetest examples of redemption made tangible that I now know (and a picture that is now posted to the "success board" of my neurologists' office!). I'm running again consistently - not fast yet, but getting there and dreaming big dreams in that area of my life again. I've been back at work full-time for over a year and seeing Jesus sustain both my body and my mind in the day-in-and-day out pressure of a high-intensity career. I've seen healing come in the tiniest glimpses and huge bounds and even on the days when things flare up or where progress feels slow, I'm just utterly blown away by His faithfulness here.

Being sick has changed me. I think it's still changing me. I didn't know what paradigms needed to be rewritten and re-structured until I had to face limitation. I didn't know the places where I didn't know, believe, or extend grace, until those gaps and areas of weakness were so evidently in front of my face. I didn't know how bad I was at living in the moment, until I had to divide my days into hours and celebrate the little victories of having a good morning or even a few good hours. I didn't know how deeply, toxically, and pervasively my own unfair and unrealistic expectations of myself had affected my relationship with God and with the people around me until Jesus gracious began the journey of uprooting those things in me and redefining grace and flourishing and success and beauty. He's still doing that. We're still on that journey, He and I - redefining truth according to His standard, beauty according to His definition, and success in such a way that aligns with His Kingdom and heartbeat.

But His grace? Oh, it's weighty. And His mercy that helps us live into each hour and day by His strength and in His joy? Words can't describe it.


When I walked away from the hospital after my appointment, I thought about how different this feels from countless appointments where I'd drive home and curl up in my bed and cry. I still so clearly remember the days I would walk away feeling entirely defeated and fighting with desperation to hold on to any amount of hope. I remember feeling utterly exhausted - by being sick and by the process of trying not to be sick. I remember so many days and nights begging God for even the tiniest breakthrough.

And now here I am. Here we are. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

I thought about how being sick used to feel absolutely normal and now it's again the exception and how that sometimes still catches me off guard. I thought about the days I ached for the chance to consistently do the things I love again and that now I have official (and full!) permission to do so. About the team of medical professionals who've worked with me over the past few years, especially the ones who looked beyond the medical charts and became cheerleaders. About my roommates and our home and about love that carries us when we can't carry ourselves. About my bike tour crew and how they taught me so much about finding joy in the midst of disappointment and changes in plans. About the countless friends and family who believed for healing with me (and for me when I couldn't see that far). The community that extended endless grace for cancelled plans and lacklustre energy and a thousand food restrictions and who believed for a renewal over all that was broken. I thought about the phone calls and text messages and the persistent prayers and the way Jesus has an incredible way of using people to speak truth and peace to my tired heart when I couldn't find my footing. I thought about all of the people who have shared tears and anger on my behalf and the army of people who've been with me and for me in all of this and how there's no way I'd be where I am or who I am without that deep and sacrificial love. 

I thought too about the community of those who struggle with chronic sickness or pain - a tribe of incredibly brave, resilient, and hopeful (even against huge odds) fighters. I thought about how much they've taught me and still teach me. About the ones so many of us don't even know are struggling and even those who we know are, yet can't do anything to make things better. About the brave ones who make pain look effortless, even though it's the farthest thing from it. About the ones whose courage and resiliency speaks with the most profound weight, even when that bravery simply looks like showing up or giving themselves the grace to acknowledge their own limitations. I thought about and prayed desperately for breakthrough in the lives of so many who are in the midst of their own storms and about how much my heart aches for them. About how much I hate that my own progress isn't happening side-by-side with theirs.

And, I thought about the ways that Jesus has reshaped and rewired and graciously moulded me in this. About the ways He's made Himself known to me, the ways He was with me and carried me through every single moment and emotion. I thought about He taught me to pray here and to rest and even how to delight in my weakness. How all of this - every moment of comfort or peace, every step forward, and every ounce of healing - is all to His credit and a humbling and overwhelming and good gift. 


I still don't really know what to do with this week except crying a lot of happy tears and going for as long of a run as my legs could handle and scribbling a thousand babbling words into a notebook telling Jesus how thankful I am for who He is and what He's done and is doing. My neurologist and so many of my friends tell me this is worth celebrating and I know it is.

But I also know that this progress - as significant as it is - doesn't make Jesus any more powerful or beautiful or majestic than He was on the days when I was curled up in a dark room, when fear held tight with an unforgiving grip, or when my body felt like it was falling apart. He hasn't changed one bit in any moment of this. And He's never been any less worthy or powerful or beautiful.

He was beyond worthy of all my affection, praise, and attention in the midst of being sick, in the depths of the hardest parts of grief, and in the scariest parts of burnout. He's beyond worthy of all my affection, praise, and attention in these big steps forward into a new normal that's lined with new life and new stability and new hope. And He'll remain worthy of all my affection, praise, and attention for the rest of time until all breath and language fades and harmonizes into a song that speaks of His majesty and His love for all of eternity.

But this progress does give me a reason to celebrate the reality of His power and beauty and majesty made a bit more tangible and palpable: right here and right now. It gives me a(nother) story of answered prayers and a testimony of the mercy of Saviour Jesus.

That's definitely worth celebrating. That's always worth celebrating.

 

 

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on vibrant plurality, millennials of faith, & Canada's 150th

As I type this, I’m sitting on a plane flying back to BC’s west coast, headed home after a defining and memorable week in our nation’s capital. The window seat has provided me with an incredible view to watch the sunset light up the horizon over what is, per my best guess at this point, somewhere over the prairies. In many ways, the flight back over the geographic expanse of our country seems fitting as I try to process so much of what unfolded these past few days.

So many thoughts still swirling in my mind, certainly catalyzed and enforced by the conversations of the past week:“What does it mean to be faithful – truly faithful?”; ”What does it look like to live with a default to hospitality, inclusion, and justice?”; “How can I let my faith more fully inform and inspire every part of my work?”; and, “Why the heck was it raining so much in Ontario in the middle of the summer?”

For three days leading up to the sesquicentennial, I had the incredible honour of joining a group of millennial leaders of faith & a cabinet of influential Canadians at the Faith in Canada 150 Millennial Summit. We gathered to affirm the role of faith in our public lives and to dialogue around the role of authentic faith in the pursuit of the common good.

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Canada Day this year marked the 150th anniversary of a constitutional document, but it certainly did not mark the birth of our nation, our people, our land, or the foundational ethos that has shaped and formed the notion and reality that is Canada. Our history is nuanced and unfolding: we’re certainly a work in process, aspiring to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, yet stumbling our way through what that looks like when played out in the lived experience of the diverse 36 million+ who make their homes, lives, and livings within our three coastlines.

But, there’s something so unique about a shared celebration and the way that it invites us to look back and to look ahead in the same space: to own up to where we have failed, to celebrate where we have succeeded, and to resolve to move forward into even greater flourishing – for all – together.

And, honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a sweeter way to mark this milestone than an opportunity like this. It's hard to convey what unfolds in a space like this and harder too to quantify the impact and ripple effects of a space like this (especially at this stage), but after the conclusion of the summit, I ducked into a coffee-shop and typed this in a note on my computer, wanting to capture as much as I could the sentiment of those days:

These kinds of gatherings are both so entirely ordinary and incredibly unique. What we were invited into, however, was akin to an invitation to an incredible dinner party. Cardus/F150 set the table for us, invited a group that would not on our own find each other (at least not to this degree), and provided the space whereby we could converse and collaborate.

We ate together sat in beautiful rooms overlooking our capital and tried not to get soaked in the unusual June rain and told stories and talked about how our faith inspires and informs our work, study, family, & cultural traditions. We contemplated ideas and discussed hard questions together, and we dreamed together about how to engage with, serve, and lead our nation well: right now and in the next 150 years too.

There were so many moments I told myself to take a snapshot of this gathering in my mind. It's such a rare gift to have space around the table like this. This space was generous: a collection of passionate leaders whose hearts are bent toward seeing our neighbourhoods, cities, & nation flourish, not despite our diversity, but absolutely because of it.

We embrace plurality based on a shared commitment to human dignity. We affirm diversity as our strength: an invitation to live with charity in our shared humanity, even when that invitation poses distinct challenges.

I'm blown away by the resilience & kindness of these leaders - now my friends. They represent many of the diverse religious & cultural traditions that make up the mosaic of Canadian society. If anyone suggests that our generation is one that has fully embraced secularism, abandoned faith, or given up on community, this will be (one of) the stories I tell to emphatically suggest otherwise.

I'm encouraged by our commonality & even more so thankful for respectful dialogue. We're each deeply committed to our (often differing) faiths, but also deeply committed to the flourishing of our shared society, to compassion & hospitality, to combatting marginalization, and in all these things committed to the task of pursing the common good: together.

Canada, I have great hopes for your flourishing & that the next 150 years can be even more bent toward diversity, peace, & vibrant pluralism than the last.


One of the (many) highlights of the trip was the conversations that unfolded around the work we’re each engaged in – motivated by what we believe, but taking root in a hugely varying realm of workplaces, industries, and social sectors. Contrary to the (sadly often accurate) reputation given to many Millennials of being flighty and/or non-committal, we encouraged each other to live with a steady and rooted faithfulness. After all, the pursuit of the common good, while a large-scale idealistic notion, plays out and finds its true life in ordinary spaces and every-day faithfulness.

And in that, I walked away particularly encouraged. This was a group of committed and faithful people, endeavouring to live out an ethic of justice and hospitality and hope. Where we drew the motivation for this action differed, and sometimes significantly, but this mattered less than the action and external commitment itself. And, even in difference, there was a palpable respect for the differing sources of inspiration and sustenance.

It’s more and more evident to me that my generation – this one given the broad-stroked, most-negative label of “Millennial” – is hugely concerned with and holistic expression of being and living. We want to be authentic versions of ourselves and to provide spaces whereby everyone can do the same. We want our social fabric to reflect a lived-out commitment to pluralism.

And faith, unsurprisingly, only adds to this commitment and conviction.

Another huge concept that echoed throughout this week was the rejection of the notion that there is a differentiation between public or private faith. Certainly there are private and more public expressions of faith, but the true foundation and reality of faith is that it informs, inspires, and provides foundation to all of our lives. To suggest that there is a divide between public and private is to fundamentally misunderstand the fullness and call of faith. The practices I embrace in “private” influence every aspect of my public existence – from the kind of work I do, to the way I do that work, to the ways I spend my money, the places I invest my time, and even the ways I treat and interact with neighbours, colleagues, baristas, etc.

In short, we are what we believe: always.

And, despite the false suggestions of a society that espouses the notion of secularism as the pinnacle of human progress, this deep-rooted and all-encompassing reality of faith is, quite possibly, one of the greatest social assets that exists in civil society. Despite what secular humanists may suggest, a shared commitment to religious freedom and the expressions thereof may be one of the most positively influential forces for all citizens, regardless of their own faith or personal convictions (or indeed, even the lack thereof). And, this impact is not only limited to the more traditionally defined reaches of “faith” or “religion” but in the lived out expression of these beliefs – namely that people of faith are, at their best, people of conviction, community, and positive social action.


I can say with confidence that this experience underlined my commitment to both the ethos behind and practical outworking of my work. It, in an unexpected way really, breathed more robust life and meaning into what it means to live out my faith as a professional, as a citizen, and as a neighbour. A vibrant reminder that the best contribution I can make to my country and to the world is to pursue Jesus and remain faithful to the life He invites us to live in a Kingdom that's far beyond any one nation or people group.

Justice. Fairness. Dignity. Community. There are things we hold tightly to as citizens of a pluralistic and multicultural society committed to seeing our society flourish, but even more so as followers of Jesus committed to joining God in the renewal of all things.  


As a close to the events of the week, Cardus hosted a public reception on Canada Day, with an opportunity to speak about the F150 initiative and present a bit of the history of the role of faith and faith communities in shaping the Canada we know today. As part of this, they asked three of the millennial delegates to speak on a panel about our experience at the summit, what we’re taking back to our communities from this experience, and our dreams for Canada in the next 50-150 years. I was honoured to have been asked to be one of these speakers, and as I sat next to a vivacious Muslim friend, who moved to Canada from Egypt nearly a decade before, and a bright and introspective Catholic friend, who transplanted to Canada from Brunei, I couldn’t help but be incredibly encouraged – by these leaders in my generation, but also by the history and the legacy of those before that have paved the way for us to get to this point.

I thought about first nations leaders and advocates who were bravely standing that very moment on Parliament Hill next to a teepee, aiming to include conversations about reconciliation and indigenous relations into the narrative of the Canada 150 events and protest against the places where those conversations had not been honoured as they should. I thought about the response of solidarity and community that emerged – across faith and cultural lines – after the shooting at the Quebec City Mosque earlier this year. I thought about the history of committed Mennonites who shaped Canada’s response to refugees in the aftermath of WWII and the ripple effects of that into our now wider-spread reputation and track-record of welcoming the foreigner into our midst. I thought about the group of Dutch Reformed immigrants – including my own grandparents – who, upon their arrival in Canada now decades ago, sought to proactively change the landscape of the nation they chose to call their home by addressing gaps in church planting, equitable labour, and quality education.

I thought about all those things and do so again as I write this – about to touch down at home in Vancouver – and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for how far we’ve come and with immense hope for where we’re going.  

Canada, let's do this. Let's make the next 150+ even better than the years that shaped who we are today.

May God truly keep our land glorious and free. 

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EBC: Trek Itinerary

Here we go! Here we go! Here we goooooo! From May 13-23rd we'll be trekking to EBC with Mountain Mart Treks & Expeditions. Our Trek Itinerary is as follows: 

12 May: Pre-Trip Orientation (Kathmandu)

13 May: Day One
Kathmandu – Lukla (2,642m/8,668ft) – Phakding (2,562m/8,700ft), ~8km
Overnight in Phakding

14 May: Day Two
Phakding – Namche Bazaar (3,440m/11,280ft), ~10km
Overngiht in Namche Bazaar

15 May: Day Three
Namche Bazaar - Tengboche (3,870m/12,694ft), ~8km
Overnight in Tengboche

16 May: Day Four
Tengboche - Dingboche (4,360 m/14,300 ft), ~10km
Overnight in Dingboche

17 May: Day Five
Acclimatization and exploration day: hike to Nangkartshang Gompa
Overnight in Dingboche

18 May: Day Six
Dingboche – Lobuche (4,940 /16,207ft), ~7km
Overnight in Lobuche

19 May: Day Seven
Lobuche - Gorak Shep (5,160 m/17,000ft) - Everest Base Camp (5,364 m/17,594 ft), ~15km
Overnight in Gorakshep

20 May: Day Eight
Gorak Shep - Kala Patthar (5,545 m/18,192 ft) - Pheriche (4,280 m/14,070 ft), ~15km
Overnight in Pheriche

21 May: Day Nine
Pheriche – Namche Bazaar (3,440 m/11,280 ft), ~15km
Overnight in Namche Bazaar

22 May: Day Ten
Namche Bazaar – Lukla (2,642m/8,668ft), ~18km
Overnight in Lukla

23 May: Day Eleven
Lukla – Kathmandu (1,300m/4,264ft), 35 min flight
Overnight in Kathmandu (Mountain Child Guesthouse)

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Nepal Diaries: I

In May 2017, my dear friend Chandler and I are headed to Nepal for just over three weeks and will be trekking to Everest Base Camp as well as spending time in and around Kathmandu. In a lot of ways it’s a “normal” trip – not unlike many international adventures I’ve taken before. But for me, this is also a trip and a destination backed by more than a decade of dreaming. Going to Nepal is an adventure, yes, but it’s also a story of redemption and God’s faithfulness and timing and the ways He weaves goodness into our lives in whimsical and freeing ways. It's a story of learning to say yes to the things that pulse in our hearts. It’s a story I wanted to start to write out as we prepare to go, continue as we’re there, and after that? Well, your guess is as good as mine. 

Here’s part I:


I think I was 14 or 15.

It’s hard to remember the exact details of that age or hone in on a precise moment(s) when something catalyzes in your heart and becomes a piece of you in an almost unexpected and unexplainable way.

It was a huge book – full of grainy, low-quality images and expedition notes - outlining the events surrounding the first ascent of the world’s tallest peak. Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay were the heroes and the rugged and unpredictable masses of South Asia’s Himalayan mountain range acted as both the gorgeous setting and the dangerous protagonist.

I was enamored.

By the adventure and the ruggedness. By the sheer beauty and size of the Himalayas. By the whole narrative surrounding the expedition and the global crew and audience. By the speculation that such a summit would kill these men, and by the victorious celebration of such an outrageous feat accomplished.

It was fuel to my already deep love for mountains and travel, and was a discovery that catalyzed reading more and more books about mountaineering adventures, climbing memoirs, and travel documentaries. I pinned and labeled my world map with the tallest peaks on every continent and dreamed of the day(s) I’d be the one climbing those mountains and writing those stories. I was (and to this day remain) hooked.

But there was another player in the story that captivated me too in a way that felt almost like turning on a switch in my heart: the peoples and villages and cities and culture(s) of the nation in which Mt. Everest makes its home: Nepal

Nepal is a small nation nestled in-between two global super-powers, home to many of the tallest mountain peaks on the planet, and boasts the vast majority of Asia’s fresh water supply. It’s a tiny piece of land and a modest population (by Asian standards at least), yet crippled with decades of political corruption, extreme poverty, and natural disasters.

From the first encounter with Nepal and for years following, I couldn’t read or watch enough about it. I picked up Lonely Planet travel guides and every article or book I could find about this small nation, started reading about the history, culture, religion(s), and development of South Asia, researched missions organizations and NGOs working in South Asia, and started reading every UN report and prayer guide I could find related to Nepal. I dreamed continuously of when I would get to go.

I was particularly enthralled with the iconic images of Buddhist prayer flags waving in the wind, the bright blocks of colour standing in stark contrast to the clean white of the snow-capped Himalayas. I loved the idea behind them: that these prayers written on flags acted as continuous prayers into the wind – prayers of gratitude for life and beauty and prayers of petition for safety and provision and mutual compassion. They felt like living psalms to me: poetry and gratitude and praise waving in the wind. And yet, my heart broke because this beautiful expression meant to represent both surrender and delight, was an expression with good intent but an incomplete end. It was rooted in humanistic ideals, rather than praise to the living and gracious and merciful God who crafted the rolling hills and the mighty peaks.

So, at 16, I made my own: designing flags with psalms of worship, transcribed onto blocks of coloured fabric the bold curves of Hebrew characters and others with New Testament verses of praise transcribed with the blockish letters of the text’s original Greek. I hung the string of homemade flags in my teenage bedroom – above walls covered peppered by posters of Team Canada hockey, David Beckham, Steve Prefontaine, Mia Hamm, and rock-climbing and mountain photography.

Somewhere in there, I had fallen in love with a place I had never been before and with people I had not yet had the chance to meet. Nepal became a part of me, a part of my life-plan, a regular part of my prayers, and for the most part, I had no definitive reason why: it had simply and definitively captured a piece of my heart.


I think I’ve known a few things about myself and about life from a really early age that have not only stayed the same, but grown with depth as time has progressed:

one: I love Jesus.

two: I love mountains.

three: I love cultures and travel and am passionate about international issues, international missions, & international development.

Certainly, the third of these three dimensions is the most nuanced and has grown with focus and depth as my education and experience has followed these directions, but these three things have both consciously and unconsciously have guided and influenced nearly everything about my life.

Eventually my growing teenage interest and passions fueled university and graduate study: diving deep into issues of political economy, frameworks for effective and sustainable development in poverty-entrenched nations, debates surround the democratization of the “developing” world, exploring the use of sports and outdoor recreation in the context of international development and as a tool for reconciliation, peace, and leadership development, research into the geopolitical tensions in Asia over water, and, an extensive exploration into climate refugees and the challenges faced by internally and externally displaced people groups.

My research and education went deep and wide, catalyzing passion in my heart in ways I couldn’t have imagined, but also opening my eyes to grave injustice, historic and continuing oppression, and repeatedly breaking my heart with the sheer depth and reach of evil that exists in the world.

And yet, through it all: as passions for particular countries and issues increased and found focus, two countries/regions kept and maintained a hold on my heart in a way that stood out above the rest: the stunning torn-apart-by-civil-war-genocide-and-rebel-strife region/nations of East Africa and Nepal: the mountainous South Asian nation that had held a grip on my heart for longer than I could even remember.

I didn't know you could so deeply love places you've never been, weep with such authentic sorrow and sadness for marginalized populations on the other side of the planet, or that your heart could be so captivated by beauty (in peoples and places) you had yet to behold with your own eyes.

I still don't understand it, really...

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four years.

Dad,

I have no idea how we’re already here: how we’re back at another anniversary and marking another year of life without you. How is that even possible?

Four years means I’ve now lived more of my adult life without you than I did with you. People have frequently noted that I lost you young, but at the time “young” was my normal and the reality of facing so much life without you hadn’t yet started to settle.

Needless to say, I now find myself wishing I could somehow go back in time and give a bear hug to that scared 17-year old girl whose world felt like it was collapsing around her with the weight of the word cancer and the thought of losing you. Or sit across the table from the 22-year forced to say goodbye and write the eulogy she wasn't expecting to have to stand and read until much much later in life. I wish I could tell both of them that even though it felt like everything was falling apart, they wouldn't feel this way forever. I wish I could cry with them and also promise them that it won't always hurt quite this much.

That yes, it will always hurt. And yes, they will always hate the idea - and reality - of a world without their father. But also that in there they'd find strength and joy that they never could have imagined would be theirs. I wish I could tell them that they were stronger and more brave than they believed they would be. And that someday they’d even come to find deep joy (and even humour) in all the ways their plans and ideas failed and how - in all the pain and loss and surrender - Jesus would continue write a story and a life far more meaningful and beautiful than what they had in mind.

But I guess that's all part of the journey, eh? The fear and the disbelief and the anger and railing against how much you hate what has changed or been stolen from you. The surrender and the tears and the moving forward too. The learning things through experience: even if that experience is something you never wanted to walk through and wouldn't hope for anyone. The reality that no matter how many amazing people tell you so many things (good, bad, and otherwise) about grieving and loss, there are so many parts of this journey you have to and can only learn and feel and fully process yourself.

Turns out that as much as you wish you could, you can't outsource grief.

That you, yourself, have to learn to fight for joy. That you, yourself, have to learn to give yourself grace for the days you wish you could just collapse into the exhaustion and pain. That you, yourself, have to make peace with the reality that there are parts of this that simply require a heck of a lot of time. And that you, yourself, have to learn to make your home in His presence and His hope, over and over and over again.

——

You know what I really want to do today?

I want to sit on a patio overlooking the ocean and these crisp January snow-capped peaks, curl up in a thick blanket, and talk to you for hours over perfectly brewed coffee or a glass of smooth Malbec. I want to tell you about India and Norway and the UK and my upcoming trip to Nepal (it’s.finally.happening!), that Tim and I went to Yosemite and that Half Dome is pure sparkly awe-inspiring magic in the snow, that I’m running again, and that U2 was every bit as good in concert as I/we expected them to be.

I want to tell you about my bike tour and my crazy road-trip from there to Mexico, about the community and family God has brought me in Vancouver that humble me constantly with how amazing, supportive, and fun they are. I want to tell you about CT scans and doctors appointments and channeling your humour and perspective when I had to face the fear and unknown and diagnosis of chronic sickness and I really want tell you of all the ways that Jesus has sustained me there and is bringing more and more healing.

I want to freak out together about the character and audacity of Jesus and the scope of His grace and sufficiency. I want to tell you about church plants and preaching and writing and grad school research and burn out and law school applications and thesis topics and how I've settled into the work I'm doing now. I want to tell you about the guys who've broken my heart (turns out, guys remain a vast mystery), of all the ways I've learned and grown because of that process, and I so badly wish that you could remind me in only the way that you could that God's goodness in that area of life, while sometimes mysterious and even frustrating, is absolutely worth trusting.

I want a big and strong Dad hug and to hear your laugh and watch you talk with your hands. I want to show you pictures of hikes and camping trips and show you all of my favourite places in these gorgeous coastal mountains and this rugged west coast. I want to update my National Parks list and show you that I'm now definitely winning the count (and remind you that, yes, it is entirely your fault that I am this competitive). I want to bemoan how the Canucks have played since the Cup run in 2011, revel in the fact that Crosby only keeps getting better, and tell you that I've nearly finished the "goal" list of watching a live game in every major North American sports league (only NFL to go! - and set to be completed next fall. #success).

I want to tell you that Bart and Kristin are parents of three now and that gorgeous little Stella joined the family this past spring, that Nick in is grad school and doing really well there, and that Tim keeps climbing the ladder of culinary genius and creativity. I want to tell you that, Mum: well, I want to tell you for the millionth time that you made the most incredible choice with the woman you married. She's always been the most beautiful woman in the world to me, and dare I say she’s only growing in beauty. She’s strong and brave and passionate and so fully surrendered to Jesus. It’s been the best gift this past year to see God bring healing and new life and new adventures for her too - in Australia, India, and Zambia.

Goodness. A lot of life has happened since you've been gone, Dad.

I write that holding back sobs, now peppering my notebook with salty tears.

I hate that you’re not a part of this. I think I always will.

——

You almost have to make peace with the idea of moving forward before you can. That there's only so much we can hold in our hearts, heads, and hands and in order to take hold fully of all that God has for us right now and moving forward, we have to be willing to let go.

It seems that, in order to move into newness and continued healing and freedom, we have to let go of what once was. We have to (and graciously get to) look past the people we used to be, the fears that used to hold us back, the narratives and labels and habits that no longer fit, and even sometimes we even have to learn to let go of the good things and incredible people that helped to get us here.

We’re never the same people, rather we are constantly growing and learning. Grace leads us forward: deeper and deeper into His crazy and vast love and the freedom that comes in knowing Him.

But, I think that's the hardest part still: The fact that you're part of the used-to-be now. Like trips and jobs and education and accomplishments in the past that, aside from their impact (to varying degrees) in shaping and moulding me into who I am today and the ways they impacted the trajectory of where I am headed, are definitively things in the past.

Living is a funny thing, eh? This making our lives in the tension of time? The dance between what was and what is and what we hope will be? We exist as the overlapping results of our historical, sociological, and sociocultural impacts. We're formed by everyone we meet, the conversations we have, the experiences we live, the education we receive, and the gracious leading and moulding of Jesus, yet the only thing we own is this very moment.

Our dreams and plans inspire this moment, but until they collide with the present, they aren't ours either. Like Jon Foreman said: today is all we'll ever have.

So, there's a perpetual challenge there: living fully alive in the right now. The task of fully embracing and living fully alive in the glorious and messy and mundane and exhilarating reality of today. The mind-boggling gift of this moment and the holy task of being alive: fully surrendered in worship and wonder.

It’s baffling really - that in Jesus we live and move and have our being.

That - in Him - even the most “mundane” tasks can be holy, that even the most “ordinary” interactions can carry glimpses and glimmers of the Kingdom. That - in Him - even the most difficult things can shine with possibility and hope. And that - in Him - even the most obviously good and exciting things only point in veiled shadows and blurred hues to the full depth of His beauty and goodness.

Right here: His mercy and peace sustain us and fills our lips with songs of joy.

——

He really is more beautiful than words can ever express, hey?

Every description of Him falls short of how good He is, how faithful He is, how glorious the reality of His salvation and grace and mercy and justice are. More and more I just find myself speechless and in awe of Him - captivated in wonder and amazement. I’m constantly humbled by the reality that He draws near to us and delights in making Himself know to us. His: The name above all names: unmatched and unrivaled in every possible way. And, in our suffering, we come to know Him in ways we never could before we became brutally aware of our own weakness and desperation.

Emmanuel is our Victory.

The God of endless mercy and steadfast wild love is our delight.

——

I bought a Joe Sakic jersey a few weeks ago and cried when I first put it on. It’s seems silly that something like that can make me miss you so keenly. How a piece of clothing can transport me back to the warmth and excitement of watching games with you, and freaking out together about the iconic Sakic-Hejduk-Forsberg combo. How the style and temperament of “Super Joe!” will always remind me of you and how deeply you loved the game and taught me to love it too.

A few years ago, Tim and I decided that someday when we had steady jobs, he’d get a Gretzky jersey and I’d get a Sakic jersey and we’d frame them and put them up in our offices or homes. I guess we must be growing up and establishing our careers a bit more, because He has his #99 and I now have my #19. It’s a small marker and an inconsequential homage, but it’s movement: holding on to memories, yet letting them point us forward too.

As bittersweet as it is, we are moving forward here Dad. In ways I think you’d be proud of.

Credit the sweet sweet grace of Jesus, we’re living in the space of answered prayers. Living into the reality of redemption unfolding in real time. There’s so much life and growth and goodness to tell you about. Hard-taught lessons in learning how to die are turning into joy-filled lessons of learning was it means to live: to really live.

Four years feels different than the years prior, in a way that’s hard to describe. It doesn't feel quite as hard to fight for joy anymore. Grief feels more like a sporadic headache now an than a constant storm cloud. You're more beautiful memory now, less jarring pain of an empty seat at the kitchen table or empty slot in my week and calendar that used to be set aside for talking to you.

As much as I will forever hate losing you and the crowd of incredible family that we’ve had to say goodbye to too, loss is, in the most unexpectedly backwards way, teaching me how to live: Less pressure, more grace. Less stuff, more moments. Less individual ambitions, more communally-driven dreams. Less closed doors, more open tables. Less concern about what people think or what society suggests my life should look like, more concern about quiet, steady, and rooted faithfulness to Jesus.

——

I will always have a love/hate relationship with January 22nd.

January 22nd will always stand as the marker of the day you were set free. The day you got to go Home. The day you were fully healed. The day where you entered into the presence and perfection and glory of Jesus.

Honestly, I’m jealous. So unbelievably jealous. I want to be there too. In the fullness of his beauty and presence without the stain and scourge of sin. The perfection of peace. Finally Home and fully free. Where justice and righteousness reign without opposition.

My heart can’t even begin to comprehend it.

But I’m not there yet. We’re not there yet.

I lift my head to these mountains and hear the kind invitation of Jesus that there’s still more work to be done, more love to live out, more ways to taste and see of His goodness here. As tempting as it can be to avoid the pain and try to numb myself to the reach of sin, I guess my task isn’t one of running away, is it?

Losing you early and losing you young holds me accountable to the fleeting breath that is our lives. In your wake, you leave a legacy of a life lived well, a life alive in worship, and an invitation to go and do likewise.

In response to the ache, we respond with worship. In direct reaction to the pain and the longing, we rejoice in His love, His presence, His salvation, and His enduring presence. In the midst of chaos, we anchor ourselves in His peace. In recognition of the pain and need that surround us, we intercede that His Kingdom would come. And we do this all with his coming victory as our motivation and our strength, not our avoidance strategy.

What will I do with this (one) wild and precious life? How am I living here? Is Jesus truly the joy and delight and consuming ambition of my life? Am I giving my time and life for those around me? Am I spending my time and efforts for the sake of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed?

——

Four years is grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

Four years is a deeper glimpse into the beauty that comes after pain - not just in theory or in a seemingly far-off or desperate prayer, but in lived experience and tangible reality. Four years shimmers with the new life that comes after death. Four years is singing even louder to the anthem that death doesn’t (not now. not ever.) win and that our Jesus has conquered the grave and forever shut down the reach and power of death. Four years is finding myself even more in love with Jesus, being made more and more alive in His redemption and finding even deeper confidence in His goodness (against all odds) leading us forward.

Four years is awe at how gracious and faithful He has been to us.

And, four years is still being humbled by the reality that I got to call you my Dad. Four years is immense gratitude that you were brave enough to share everything you could with us - all of the mundane and the magical parts of this being human thing. Four years is a greater understanding and mutual love for your most favourite thing: the the paradoxical depth and reach of our weakness meeting the wonder and strength of being fully loved by a wholly sufficient and faithful God. Four years is immense gratitude that, more than anything else, you shared your deep deep love for Him - and in that you set an example for what it means to delight in the wonder and reach and depths of who He is.

I still count it amongst the greatest honours and joys of my life to have been your little Lider.

Miss you always and love you forever, Dad.

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Top Albums of the Year [2016]

ah 2016.

Let's be real: you were a bit of a mess, but in the midst all of the chaos and fear and heartbreaking events, you produced some incredible art and music. As is my annual tradition, here follows the hardest (and most fun) list I'll make all year: my top albums for the year. December always means hours of re-listening to much of the year's best music to finalize my top collection. It's the best.

The "rules" are simple: 1. the top picks have to be full albums (EPs are excluded, although my favourites will often get a shout-out). And 2. this is based on my favourites - not necessarily the top albums in terms of quality or artistry or impact (case in point: Beyonce's Lemonade? Incredible & massively impacting. Yet, since I'm not a big Bey fan and I listened to that album a grand total of 1.5 times this year, it won't make this list). 

So, here we go: 

  1. Bon Iver: 22, A Million
    Justin Vernon is an artistic genius and he does it again - perhaps with more depth and creativity and boldness than any of his projects yet. A journey of searching and wrestling and the reach and sting and depth of love and loss. Does this even need more of a sell than that?

  2. Kaleo, A/B
    Icelandic Rock means American blues, with the subtle angst and idealism of youth and wrapped in a soundtrack diverse enough to fit a road-trip, Saturday at home, and/or smoky rock-show. A sample for you, below: because performing live on an iceberg? (or, you know, in a Volcano?) Um. Yes.

  3. James Vincent McMorrow: We Move
    I think one of my favourite thing about the 2016 music year was the way that artists pushed beyond their own stereotypes or previously expected sounds. I've long loved James Vincent McMorrow, but in We Move, he seemed to discover a whole new depth and reach to his capability and scope as an artist. It's truly a thing of beauty.

  4. NEEDTOBREATHE: Hard Love
    These southern rockers have been one of my favourite bands since their start over a decade ago - and one of the few bands for which I can say I know the words to every song. So it doesn't take a lot to sway me in favour of a new project. Hard Love album is a twist and development and maturity to their sound, and I loved it. Quite possibly the single most-listened to album of the year. And! I saw them live in San Diego in September and the concert exceeded all of my hopes and expectations (and they certainly were high going in), so now listening takes me back to that ampitheatre on that cold Southern California evening and the strength and warmth of Bo's voice live.

  5. Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
    World/Radiohead keeners: Radiohead has a new (secret, uniquely released) album!
    Me: ahhhh! AWESOME.
    World/Radiohead keeners: It's sooooo good.
    Me: (listening) Not super impressed. I feel a bit disappointed by this one.
    World/Radiohead keeners: Best. album. ever.
    Me: (listening again) Hmmmm. Still mixed.
    Me: (listening some more). Goodness, they were right.
    Me: (listening even more) The story. The narrative. The emotion. Soooooo good.

6. James Blake, The Colour in Everything
James Blake is like a moody, complicated, and intriguingly eccentric, but yet absolutely brilliant friend that you sometimes can't keep up with, but the more time you spend with them, the more you come to appreciate their depth and perspective. I admittedly wasn't sure about this album at first. But then I kept listening - and typical of Blake's albums, it grew on me and just.keeps.getting.better. 

7.  Jon Bryant, Twenty Something
This album has so much heart. In some regards it's pretty "classic" modern folk, but I found it to be rich, dynamic and raw - both lyrically and melodically. It's warm and it's jagged all at the same time. Super impressed by this emerging Canadian talent. (Also - Small world connection: I actually met and played beach volleyball with Jon and his lovely wife (then fiancee) this summer, just a few weeks before their wedding in Nova Scotia. However, at the time I was introduced to him as a friend of a friend and had no idea that he was the artist behind this album that I was listening to all the time. So cool.)

8. Lapsley, Long Way Home
This album surprised me with how much I came to love it, particularly given it's deviation from genres that I'm typically drawn to. Electronic meets R&B meets James Bay-esque ballads, Lapsley is only 19 and yet she crafts this album with a maturity beyond her years. It has a boldness that makes you pay attention and the combination of just enough production and just enough rawness to give it unexpected reach. 

9. Explosions in the Sky, the Wilderness
Ever since I found out that they were the band behind the soundtrack for Friday Night Lights (my favourite TV show), I've been hooked on Explosions in the Sky. It takes a lot for an instrumental album to crack my top albums of the year, but this one does it easily. It echoes of the simultaneous calm and ruggedness of nature and the thrill adventure in a way that makes me want to jump in my car and head straight to the mountains. Listen to it. You won't regret it. 

10. Head and Heart, Signs of Life
Warm. Barely complicated, and mostly reminiscent of summertime and goodness. Not a particularly bold album nor an unexpected sound from this definitively "coffeeshop" crew, but has just enough to keep you coming back and putting this album on in the background of a chill and sunshine-filled day.

11. Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book
This album is certainly amongst the highest quality of the albums released in 2016. Arguably blazing the way for a entirely new genre (New Gospel) and certainly forging a new path within the world of hip-hop: this is rap with soul and depth and a search for meaning that lands solidly on two feet. Not to mention the collaborations and partnerships throughout? So carefully chosen and so brilliantly woven into the overall language and heartbeat.

12. Matt Corby, Telluric
Guyyyyss. After years of EP's, Matt Corby finally released a full album. And it certainly lived up to the reputation of his previous work. This collection is intriguing in the way that it's both comforting and confusing, which almost seems to be Corby's trademark.

13. Birdy, Beautiful Lies
Florence and the Machine meets Adele meets Norah Jones meets a unique and personal twist on the world of sweeping soulful ballads and mesmerizing piano confessionals. She's young and that youth comes through in this project, but in a way that I think actually made me like it more: a constant weaving of weaknesses and idealism mixed with wisdom beyond her years and surprising strength.

14. Galant, Ology
R&B Soul with hip-hop ambitions, fitting a lot of emotion and history and trauma and hope into a largely poetic space. Galant's story comes through in this album: deeply personal and laced with pain and raw emotion, and yet he presents a vulnerable narrative with delicacy and skill. This album is rich and deeply impacting.

15. Switchfoot, Where the Light Shines Through
Switchfoot has been so much a part of my life and playlists for the entirety of the time that I've loved music that it's hard to imagine a world without Jon Foreman's commentary and lyrical insight and and the rock-and-roll impact of these SoCal surfers. This album felt like an anthem for our time and for a generation: hope blurred with lament, echoing and resounding through cracks and bruises, sometimes in an obvious way and sometimes so intermixed you almost can't see where one ends and the other begins. 
 

BEST: //

New discoveries: Jack Garrett & Vancouver Sleep Clinic

Okay, I could rave about both for a while here. Jack Garratt's debut album "Phase" is freaking incredible and manages to never get old nor too familiar. The range is insane. Needless to say, I'm sold. And can't wait for more of this British kid's work in coming years.

And you know those artists you discover almost randomly and when you do, you kind of freak out with a "how have I not heard of this band before?!!". That was Vancouver Sleep Clinic. No full album released this year from this talented crew, but the singles they did release (Killing Me to Love You, Lung, Someone to Stay) were stellar. Not to mention that their album artwork was among the most beautiful I discovered all year. 

EP Love // Brooke Fraser, Collection of Singles (Therapy & IV Fridays)
Because Brooke. And her lyrical depth and genius ("We are mirages, a trick of light a sleight of hand, when what we want is to be touchable again..."). And making new music Fridays extra special this summer. And Therapy being one of my favourite songs of the year? Done. 

Single (unattached to an album) // Josh Garrels, Hiding Place
I needed this song this year. Maybe because this was the song that most clearly resembled a thousand prayers over this past year with the divisive rhetoric(s) of fear and hatred that seemed to dominate the airways and campaign trails of the western world and the song that accompanied so many tears for Aleppo and Mosul and South Sudan and the CAR. "So we will run though the way is rough and long..."

Worship // Hillsong Worship, Let There Be Light
From start to finish, over and over. 

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on healing, joy, & light in the darkness.

A few years ago – in the midst of an incredibly difficult day – I was talking to a dear friend. While surrendering to an onslaught of tears, I shakily asked her, “Is this ever going to end? Will it always be this hard?

She paused, and with tears welling up in her eyes too, reached over to give me a hug. And then barely louder than a whisper she said some words I don’t think I’ll ever forget: “You won’t always be here. You won’t always feel like this.”

I desperately wanted to believe her. I did to a certain extent but I didn’t know how to fully. So, I held on to those words like a scared kid to a safety raft, leaning into them even though the promise behind them felt impossible.


As of Sunday, we’re two weeks into the season of Advent.

The season of marked expectation for the celebration of God coming to redeem and rescue us. The season when we wait with bated breath for the (celebration of the) once-promised and now-come Messiah. Where we recognize and echo the deepest longings of all of creation for our Saviour to be with us.

But, Advent is also the season where we recognize – again and again and again – how desperate we are for that Saviour, how utterly hopeless we are without Him, and how dark and painful and heavy the world is without His light. The season where we ache and mourn and lament, all while looking upwards to Him. Where – in the midst of the downpour and the storm – we desperately hold on to safety raft and the promise of rescue and warmth.

There’s something about Advent that seems to touch on the core of what it means to be human. Something about these weeks on the calendar leading up to Christmas that echo with the simultaneous ache and the joy and longing that we always feel and rarely know how to articulate.

Advent is reality seen accurately and Advent is the promise that reality won’t always look this way. It screams to us that things that are broken don't always stay broken, things that seems lost aren't guaranteed to stay that way, and that even when the night seems dark and long, the light does shine.

With Creation groaning with desperation for this Saviour: He comes.
Into the darkness and into the hopelessness and onto these broken streets: He comes.
Into the ache and the waiting and the unknown: He comes.

And when He comes, He lifts up the lowly and the downtrodden and the marginalized and the elite all alike. His coming whispers and resounds throughout all of creation that something is different now. Hope, once an illusive idea and faith a far-off vision, now has form and substance and body.

The light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


She was right.

That dear friend on that hard day in that cozy coffee shop who promised me that things wouldn’t always felt that way and that I wouldn’t always feel so hurt and broken and stuck? She was right.

By the sweet sweet grace of Jesus, I’m not there anymore. I don’t feel that way anymore.

This morning, as I watched the soft morning sun paint the sky in gold and pink hues as it came up behind the stunning snow-covered mountains, I couldn’t help but think how much has changed since this time last year, and how much things are different than they were for the past few years. How much the story of redemption and new hope and healing feels far less idealistic, less elusive and unattainable, and far more right here: at home and rooted deep in my heart and mind and story.

I'm crying a lot of happy tears these days: on early morning runs in the dark and rain, as I make plans and dream for the coming year, at doctor’s appointments with good news, as I face the jam-packed schedule of the holidays, as I sit on my couch with my roommate processing the day, week, or looking back at the past year. Over and over - tears of joy and gratitude and a bit of disbelief at what God has done, how He has grown me, and how indescribably faithful and good He has been.

Not because things are perfect or easy now (I don't think that's ever what life looks like), but because there’s something fundamentally different – free-er, lighter, more alive. Like a fragile flower that broke through frozen ground, there’s new life here, new possibility, (re)newed hope.

I’m not there anymore. I don’t feel that way anymore.

Last year Advent was desperation. I was beaten down and heart-broken and exhausted. Everything hurt. Everything felt hard. Life seemed to be snuffed out all around me and my new task became simply keeping my head above water.

This year, like a song that grows slowly and a sunrise that inches its way above the horizon: I have a new song. This year, my song is different: laced with overflowing joy and scream-it-from-the-mountains gratitude that He is a God who heals, a God who redeems, and a God who restores.

The light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


I used to think that healing happened in pretty definitive moments. That there was a magical almost black-and-white moment when you could say that pain or grief or sickness was over and you were in an entirely different place now. You were hurt and then you’re not. You were injured and then you got better.

That felt safe. Clean. Comforting, in a (prematurely) definitive way almost. I wanted to brand things with labels of success or failure, joy or pain, beauty or brokenness. To sift through life and memory and organize events and circumstances like I clean out my closet.

But that’s not life. That’s not the bittersweet dance of being alive.

I’m starting to see that healing and restoration come in both waves and whispers: sometimes sweeping and almost comprehensive in the way they show up and sometimes far more subtle, nuanced, behind-the-scenes, and a bit slow. Sometimes it is like a light switch being turned on, but it seems that it’s more frequently like the small yet illuminating strands of light that peak through cracked doors or in the midst of dense trees.

The process and the timeline are a mystery but the guarantee is this: healing does come.

It does. It will. It is.

Darkness loses out to light again and again and again. Love conquers fear. Hope casts vision for the reality that He can be fully trusted and He is truly making all things new: here in glimpses and in eternity forever. Healing and restoration are happening right here: one step and one day at a time.

Even in the tiniest glimpses and glimmers: New life does sprout. New hope does rise. Broken hearts can heal and broken bodies can be restored. New songs start to resound in your heart. Goodness starts to unfold in ways you didn't remember or know that it could.

The light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


A lot of things had to die these past year(s).

But in it all - the very best part of it all? The Gospel becomes increasingly beautiful. Not as some distant theological concept, but as the most beautiful and life-giving reality in the entire universe. It becomes the sweetest song and the most comforting and only sufficient place to make your home.

The story of dead things coming to life because of the power and grace of Jesus?
The story of God himself drawing near to us, being with us and for us?
The story of mud healing the eyes of the blind and lepers learning again to dance?
The story of the King of Heaven relentlessly pursuing our hearts with his love that sets us free?

Something changes when – in all the pain and beauty and strength and weakness mixed irrevocably together – that very story starts to feel like your own story. Your story marked by moments and memories and days when you saw and learned - over and over and over - that nothing can outrun His love. Something changes when you start to actually believe that weakness is strength. When can’t describe anything sweeter than the ways that God carried you and drew you close. Something changes when the strength and bravery and weakness you learned in these valleys and wastelands become the very places in your story that you're the most proud of.

Somewhere along the way there: I fell in love with the God who speaks enduring hope into excruciating pain, the God who sustains us and carries us. I came to know Emmanuel – God with us – in ways I hadn’t know him before. The Prince of Peace became my refuge, Emmanuel my closest friend.

God is less distant, less theory now: more right here, best friend, deepest hope. He's safe and he's strong and I trust Him and know Him in ways I didn’t even know I didn’t before.

I think this is a journey we keep living every day: the grand exchange of our ideas and ambitions and hopes and paradigms for His. The task of dying. The task of lifting our eyes to His. As we stumble and fumble our way through life. As we find our hearts torn and broken and bursting with hope – often all in the same moments. As we say yes to beautiful things and as we say no to good things too. As we carve out time for what matters. We schedule margin. We settle into rhythm. We give ourselves to the holy tasks of work and rest and joy and hope: over and over and over, with our eyes gazing just a little beyond what’s right in front of us so as to catch the glimpses and glimmers of the God who is here and the very same God who is making all things new

The light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


I don’t know where you are this year. I don’t know what’s weighing on your heart and your mind and what pain haunts you at night. I don't know what thoughts you're fighting or what dreams you're chasing with focus and joy. I don’t know if Advent this year resounds with light and the ease of love and new life or stings with the reality of pain and darkness or struggle. I don’t know if life feels light or heavy, full of potential or laced with disappointment and hurt. I don’t know what feels irreparably broken or what seems forever relegated to darkness.

But if you are there -  if you’re in that space where the darkness feels like it may never lift or the rain won’t let up or you wonder if you’ll ever run free again, know this: healing does come.

I promise you this, because I’ve seen it come true in ways I didn’t believe it could – even when it seems impossible to imagine: “You won’t always be here. You won’t always feel like this.”

I can’t tell you when and I can’t tell you how, but new life will come. Ours is a Saviour who brought light into the darkness. His is a light that always shines and light that cannot, will not, and never will be – consumed by the dark. His is a light that not only shine into the darkness, but puts the darkness to shame and baffles and silences the power of pain or the sting of death. His is a narrative of redemption and healing and joy: in the grand arch of all of history, but also in the cracks and bruises and hang-ups and disappointments and deepest aches of your heart and mind and story. Even there. Even here. In all places and days and contexts: The light always.always.always shines. 

*The Light has shone in the darkness and the darkness has not – and never will – overcome it.

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on saltwater whimsy

My brother and I drove through dense Northern California tree groves until the road led us to the Pacific Coast Highway and we headed south, the road hugging the western edge of the continent with every curve. The Pacific Ocean stretched out to our right as far as our eyes could see, the air smelled like saltwater, and the beaches along the coast were peppered with kite-surfers and local fruit stands selling cherries, apricots, and avocados.

As we drove, with the sun dancing across the windshield, we chatted about career developments and professional goals, bemoaned the exorbitant housing prices in the cities we’ve made our homes, and debated the Sharks’ chances in the NHL finals. And then, much like we have every time we’ve been in the same place since we lost our Dad, the conversation turned to that: to reflecting on how much we still miss him, to being a bit afraid of forgetting him as time passed, and to considering how to live in such a way that honours who He was and how He taught us to live. 

It’s been almost three and a half years since he died. Loss is a complicated thing to live, much less write about. It changes you in fundamental ways you often don’t see until you’re looking back and realize that you don’t think the same way or make decisions like you used to.

As we drove and talked, I couldn’t help but think of an evening conversation I had with my Dad on the back porch, just a few weeks after he was first diagnosed with cancer. In a space where I felt overwhelmed with the idea of losing him, he looked me in the eye, and said, “Don’t let my cancer be wasted on your life. Don’t let this – whenever it takes my life – hold you back from living. In fact, if it does anything, let it make you live even more.”

They’re words that have echoed in my head and my heart since then: Death being wasted on life.

And, it’s an idea that continued resonating every day as I traveled further down the west coast – blown by the reach of the ocean and the comfort of the saltwater air. What if God breathed all of this into existence to sustain and dazzle us? What if I diminish the impact of His death and resurrection by not having my eyes open to the gift?

Jesus died so we could have life – and life to the full.

Not in the sense of a frenzied must-do-everything kind of full, but a fully alive, fully awake to His goodness, fully alive to awe and wonder kind of full. A fullness that chases sunsets, prioritizes relationships, dances without shame, and savours flavours and art and melodies and adventures. That believes and labours for good despite opposition, holds tight to hope despite the odds, and lives with steady boldness and whimsical love. 

I don’t know when or how it happens, but somewhere along the line so many of us seem to lose the wonder of living. Maybe it’s the pressures of adult responsibility or the weight of intellectual quandaries, the way the world seems (and is) crippled with evil and bad news, or how the demands of life can lull us into a monotonous or apathetic fog if we’re not careful.

But, I don’t think Jesus beat death so we would live half-alive.

I don’t think God let His Son face a brutal death and carry the weight of all our sin to set us free for anything less than lives fully awake and fully alive to the joy and hope that He offers us. I don’t think God stretched the oceans out so deep and so vast, painted the world with so many colours, or made the tiny nails on a newborn’s fingers so profoundly beautiful for us to do anything less than stand back and be in awe of Him.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that following Jesus is some sunshiny joy-ride all the time. It's not. It won't be. Life can be difficult and challenging and weight on us in ways that seems to threaten every ounce of joy we could previously muster.

And the Kingdom is vast and wide and a life of following Jesus is more nuanced than "simple" joy. Life is a truly awesome gift meant to be savoured, but being fully alive is more than a hedonistic pursuit of enjoyment. The invitation of God is one of laying our lives down in obedience and surrender. A life fully alive in Christ means living fully alive to the purposes of God in the world and He's a God who's heart and eyes are always towards those in need. Awe and enjoyment must lead to lives lived in full surrender to the calling of God – and that means sacrifice and obedience and sometimes really hard things too.

However, even in that, Jesus invites us to live with joy.

I’m more and more convinced that one of the clearest evidences of the gospel coming alive is through us learning to love life and living it well. Where we embrace both the joy and the pain that life holds, never diminishing either, but facing both with hearts and hands wide open. No fear in death, but no guilt in living either.

I don’t want to live purely for shallow enjoyment or hedonistic wanderlust: that would be a waste of life and in that pursuit I run the risk of missing the heartbeat of the gospel. I want to face hard things with love and choose daily to put others' needs before my own. I want to fight against injustice and care for the poor and marginalized with proactive compassion. I want my love to reflect the love of Christ: deep and costly.

But, I certainly don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize that I had glossed over the sparkle of His beauty all around me in the process. I want to have eyes open in wonder - always. Even in the “small” things. I want awe to be my permanent residence. I want to sip my morning coffee slowly and get funny tan-lines from playing hours of beach volleyball by the ocean and delight in the sweetness of BC berries in the summertime. I want to sing along loudly to songs in my car and chase sunsets and stay up too late talking with dear friends or hosting campfires that make everything smell like smoke and reading books that I can’t put down.

In both whimsical wonder and sacrifice, I want to live in a way that reflects the dance of life across beauty and pain. I want my living to speak to person my Dad was and how he – even in death - taught me to live.

But far more so than that I want to live in such a way that the death and resurrection of God isn’t wasted on how I approach each day: fully engaged & free of fear.

This being alive thing is a pretty incredible gift. Let's not waste it.

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on headaches, a bike tour without my bike, & loving this thing called living.

Today marks 10-days until the Love Does Bike Tour. It’s hard to believe really. Months of anticipation and preparation leading up to a trip that is almost here. I’ve been going over gear lists and training plans and fundraising for months - all the while counting down to my departure date for California, eager to meet up with the team and embark on this tour together. But, being real here - this doesn’t look or feel like what I hoped or even expected it would.

I leave for California in a week. But, after a a few months that have been challenging in ways I didn’t expect and after weeks of countless conversations with doctors, close friends, and lots of prayer (and lots tears and letting go of what I wanted this to look like), I’ve made the decision that I’m leaving my bike at home.

Wait. What? A bike tour without a bike? That doesn’t make much sense.

It doesn’t. But isn’t that so often how God seems to (graciously) show up in our lives?

When I launched Project Hope six months ago, I thought that I’d train hard and that it would be hard but that the hard would be worth it as I finished each race and somehow recovered the competitive athlete I used to be. I hoped that I would get to run fast and be strong again, that I would get to celebrate and remember all the amazing people we’ve lost to cancer and how brave and bold they were in their battle(s) with illness. And I thought that maybe-just-maybe I wouldn't have to deal with any injuries or sickness anymore myself. I hoped that somewhere in all of that I’d be able to raise lots of money for work I believe in completely. I thought that I come May 10th, I’d be packing up the last of my gear and going for my final training rides/runs before shipping my bike south and getting on the plane.

Basically, I wanted all of the things associated with this adventure to pan out beautifully and for this to be redemption unfolding in a clear and linear fashion.

Well. Can we just laugh at that a bit together, for a moment?  

In reality, it’s looked a bit different – and far more nuanced - than that.

So far: I crossed the finish line of a race for the first time since I first got injured (thinking the whole way of all the days when I thought I’d never get to run without pain again) and was nearly overwhelmed with gratitude for how huge that day/moment was. I trained as hard as I could last winter and slowly begin to feel my strength and speed coming back (and I ran the fastest 10k I have post-injury!), but early in the new year, my migraines kicked it up a notch and as a result I haven’t been able to run or bike nearly as much as I hoped. I’ve had to pull out of a few races and rearrange my race schedule. I finished 3 more races, celebrating the amazing people each race was meant to remember - and was more blown away and humbled by that process than I expected I would be. And, so far! thanks to the generosity of some incredible people, together, we've raised quite a bit of money for Love Does!

But, I also started getting really bad vertigo and found myself blacking out - especially after I exercise. I’ve spent lots of time at doctor’s appointments and trying to adjust to new medicine and treatment plans and my diagnosis was officially “upgraded” to Chronic Migraine(s), which comes with a new level of "risk" for living regular life much less training hard. I’ve had to reduce my days at work so I can rest more. I’ve slept a lot. I’ve cried a lot of tears because it hurts and it’s disappointing and I’ve struggled against the idea that I’m failing and that my body is always going to be broken.

I wanted redemption to come in a clear and linear fashion, but I’ve seen it unfolding in nuance and complexity. I wanted to be “strong”, and I’ve had to embrace “weakness”. I wanted “success” and I’ve had to embrace “failure”. I wanted resolution that came wrapped with a nice ribbon-and-bow and I’m still living in the unknown and the tension.

This isn’t redemption arrived: This is redemption in motion.


This whole adventure came out of a question that buzzed around my head and heart for months, taking root in the wake of loss and injury and in a space when I felt repeatedly bashed against the rocks. The question(s)? “How would you live if you lived out of a place of love?”

What risks would you take if you lived like you know – and fully believed – that you were at home and fully at peace in His crazy love for you? What would life look like if you embraced anchored love & audacious hope?

And you know what? In a lot of ways that started as an almost subtle whisper and now bellow with more strength, I’m laughing a lot lately at how vastly different my life looks than I expected. Laughing at the way that things have almost systematically imploded in the best possible ways.

Not because this version has in. any. way. been easy, but because every step and twist has pointed me back to Him, back to a Love that’s so much better than I ever knew it could be, a peace that’s so much more steady than I ever could have known, and a belief - that I now know and believe with all that I am -  that holding on to and fighting for Hope in the midst of all the mess of this thing called living is the hardest and yet best thing that we’ll ever do.

I don’t always like what’s going on here and I don’t always understand how God works in all of this, but oh, how I’ve come to love Him. How I come to love this life I get to live and these people around me who love me so well and this stunning place we get to savour and explore.

But I do. I love it. I love them. I love Him.  

With all that I know and all that I am: I love this thing called living.


I don’t get it, really. This dance of light and dark, of death and life, of dreams and disappointment, of possibility and limitation. I don’t understand how it is that pain makes us love more fully or how it is that death make us live better. How it is that the shadow really does proves the sunshine (thank you, Jon Foreman) or how the rain teaches us to dance in ways the sunshine never could.

There were seasons when the pain felt so heavy and I wondered if life would every be full of light and love and whimsy again. There were long days where grief and loss and death and disappointment seemed so dominant that I struggled to see past the looming clouds. I remember clinging to hope like a scared toddler does their favourite toy – desperate, white-knuckled, & wondering almost constantly if I was entirely foolish for holding on so tight to something I couldn’t yet see.  

If you’re in those days right now, my heart aches with you. Those moments and days sting in ways that words will never explain, like a fog that weighs heavy on the heart and threatens to silence every ounce of goodness and mute every ray of sunshine. But they end. Someday. They do.

And until they do, let's dance in the rain together, shall we? And then, when that day comes, we'll sit in the sunshine and celebrate all the ways that new life - in tiny glimpses and in sweeping scores - does come.

With all that I know and all that I am: I love this thing called living.


Chronic headaches are weird and frustrating thing, because you never really know how you’re going to feel until you’re there, when the pressure builds and you can feel the trap slamming shut around you without much of anything you can do to stop it. There are some factors you can control and yet most is a game-day decision and you have to make the best “in-the-moment” guess on how you’ll respond to light and sound and movement and certain foods. Sometimes you can feel the pain coming and prepare and sometimes it comes at you with the speed and impact of a truck.

For me, the hardest part is choosing to slow down and rest and coming to terms with that having to be my normal right now. I hate not getting to do what I love, hate missing out on any sunshine and activity, and hate not being able to work to the level of focus, creativity, and productivity that I typically demand of myself.

Earlier this week I had a pretty good day. I made it through the work day with a relatively low amount of pain and it was sunny outside and I was dying to move. So I went for a run. Or, rather, I tried to go for a run. Within a kilometre, I felt light-headed, the world started its now familiar spinning game, and I had to stop, sit down in the grass, and close my eyes for a bit to regroup before getting up to walk home.

I sat in the grass and cried.

I cried because I was so frustrated and everything in me in that moment hated everything about being sick and not being able to do the things that I love. I cried because I so badly want to see God bring healing to whatever is going on in my body and He hasn’t yet. I cried because I knew this final “failed” workout, especially in the same week that I crashed by bike due to a blackout, meant I was definitely not going to be able to bike during the Bike Tour. I cried because in that moment I just wanted to talk to my Dad and ask him how He learned to love Jesus so well in weakness and wished so desperately that I could somehow magically rewind so much of what has happened in the past few years

But then, sitting there in the grass, shaded from the sun, I also started to laugh.

I laughed because I realized that for a few minutes I probably looked like I had passed on on some random person's lawn and now just looked like I was a rookie runner who was super out of shape. I laughed because I felt a wave of His peace and an overwhelming promise from God that He was/is doing more in this than I can see right now. I laughed because living with headaches makes me live life a bit like a sun-starved Vancouverite when the first week of spring hits (sun! beach! ocean! mountains! music! drinks on a patio! must.savour.every.moment.) and I think it's actually teaching me to love and appreciate life a bit better.

With all that I know and all that I am: I love this thing called living.


I hate feeling weak, but Jesus meets me there over and over and reminds me that His joy and peace surround me regardless of how weak I am or may feel.
I hate knowing limitation, but God keeps reminding me that it’s there where the power of His love gets to shine the brightest.
I hate so much of this, but I'm more grateful for it than I can say because of it, He's making more of His strength, His beauty, His goodness, His presence, and His redemption in me

That's worth it. Oh, that's worth it.


On paper, Project Hope is pretty much just a crazy idea about a girl and a bike and some running shoes and trying to make a difference in the lives of some incredible kids around the world. And, it is about that. But it's about a heck of a lot more.

This is about learning that proactive love and audacious hope is lived out in really small ways (that are actually really big ways). This is about redefining failure and success. This is about community and support and encouragement and the dismantling of ideas that we have to do or accomplish epic things to make a difference. This is about embracing and celebrating all that we can do to make the world better – one life and moment at a time - and living without any guilt or shame for what we cannot. This is about freedom and whimsy and learning over and over and over that love is simple, and in its all-encompassing simplicity, it's the single most powerful thing in the world. This is about looking death and loss and sickness and disappointment in the face and tangibly saying, “You can’t - not now, and not ever - silence this love.”

  

I used to think that “success” was more powerful than “failure”. I used to think that a project had to be perfect to be worthwhile, that my body had to fit a certain mould to be beautiful, & that a goal was only truly successful if I lived up to my own unrealistic standards of success at every turn.

But, what I’m starting to see and believe more and more though, is that the very act of trying and persevering is the most powerful and meaningful part of any journey. That “failure” is inevitable, brave, and even beneficial. That these broken bodies of ours deserve far more credit (in both insane beauty and intricate function) than we give them simply because they were crafted so brilliantly by the living God and they allow us to live and laugh and move and be. And, that false, limited, and unforgiving notions of "success" only rob us of joy and hold us back from doing the things that are truly worthwhile. 

  

Sometimes love does look like biking 800KM down the California Coast. & sometimes love looks like leaving your bike at home, embracing plan B and all the adventurous unknown it can hold, and cheering on and supporting others while they ride. 

T-10 days. I still can’t wait.

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Here we go May.

It’s May.

I’m not quite sure how the first four months of 2016 have come and gone so quickly, but here we are. The sun is shining bright, the average temperature is settling in the high teens and low twenties, I find myself carving out as much time as possible to be by the water, the Whitecaps and Jays now dominate my sports schedule (Canadian teams in the NHL Playoffs #fail) and summer plans are in full-force.

It’s May.

Although this has been in the works since the end of last summer, It’s been 6 months since I launched this “little” project. We’re officially at the halfway mark of the one-year framework in which I’m endeavouring to run 9 races in honour of the nine members of our family lost to cancer, take part in the Love Does Bike Tour down the California Coast, and raise $10,000+ for Love Does (formerly Restore International) by November of 2016.

When I decided to take steps forward to make this crazy dream a reality, I knew it was a huge risk. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself in to. I didn’t know if this would “succeed” or “fail”, but simply felt the gracious invitation by God to join Him in this.

So I did. I jumped.

And it’s already been so good and so hard and amazing and meaningful in some ways I expected and in many I didn’t either. One of my favourite things Bob Goff has said is “when Jesus invites you on an adventure, He shapes who you become with what happens along the way.” When I took the first shaky step forward for this particular adventure, I didn’t know how God would use this to shape me and mould me and grow my heart for the people around me, for the work of Love Does, and all the ways He would draw me deeper into His heart too.

What I’ve been reminded of again and again? God seems far more concerned with the way we love and the people we become through the adventures than with the adventure/journey itself. I love that about Him – He’s far less concerned with what we do than who we are. He’s a God after our hearts. And, when our hearts come more alive in His love for us and are shaped more and more to love like He loves, that’s when our feet start to move and dance more freely towards things that reflect His heart.

So far:

  • I’ve ran 4 races. One in pouring rain, one in freezing cold, one in thick fog, and the other in sunshine (welcome to Vancouver, folks). For Aunt Tina, Renaye, Uncle Rick, and Grandpa.
     
  • I planned and hosted a fundraising Gala full of balloons and desserts and dancing and was absolutely blown away by the support of local businesses and my friends/community. It was my first attempt at throwing anything like that and the evening quite possibly stands out as one my favourites that I’ve lived so far – a tangible reminder that joy and whimsy and love are worth chasing and savouring together. And together, through that, we’ve raised just over $3000USD. (You can check out some photos from the Gala: here. Credit my good friend, Kevin Jacob)
     
  • I’ve also had to rearrange my race and training schedule a bit due to chronic and increasingly severe migraines. I’ve had to wrestle through ideas of success and weakness and fight against the idea that I was somehow failing and come back – again and again and again – to the reality that this “project” was never actually about biking or running. This was, is, and has always been, about celebrating the faithfulness of a God who turns mourning into dancing, who sprinkles and saturates life with joy and hope regardless of circumstances, & about chasing, celebrating, and investing in proactive hope a world away.

It’s May.

Which means the Love Does Bike Tour is this month. 20 days away, actually. Say whaaaaatt?! Our team – from all around North America - is eagerly preparing to join together in California in a few short weeks and embark on this part of the adventure together. We’re training. We’re fundraising. We’re encouraging each other and counting down together. We’re praying for and anticipating God to do awesome things. We’re excited.

 

 

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In Memory: Uncle Rick Oegema

October 2012 was a pretty brutal month.

I was in my first semester of grad school and trying to keep my head above water in my research and slowly adapting to the sheer amount of mental energy post-graduate studies required. I had moved to BC the summer before, but was still navigating being in a new city and not knowing or feeling connected to many people in Vancouver. And then, like a 2-for-1 deal, we found out that my Dad’s pancreatic cancer was “back” and had spread to his liver. And this news came only a week before my Dad’s little brother - my Uncle Rick - lost his hard-fought 3-year battle with kidney cancer.

Uncle Rick was 53.

I remember every phone call and update that month so well. The fear that came when we found out Dad’s cancer was back followed so quickly by the heartbreak and anger that Uncle Rick was gone, that Aunt Gam had lost her man, & that Brittany, Kristopher, and Cory had to live life now without their dad. I called my own dad the day after after Uncle Rick died and when I asked him how he was doing with everything that had happened, he responded with the longest pause I ever remember in conversation with him. “It’s tough, Lider” he finally responded, “cancer is just tough.” And then more silence, where I choked back tears, trying so hard to be tough for him, but feeling pretty undone by what we had lost and the looming realities of what other loss might be coming. Honestly, I’d never seen/heard my Dad wrestle like that - as per his usual, not with many words, but the weight of what He was trying to process in his head/heart was so evident. It took every bit of financial self-control that I had to not immediately book a flight to my parent’s place just so I could give my Dad a hug/get a hug from him.

To me, Uncle Rick was in so many ways my Dad’s cooler (sorry dad!) blonde twin. All of the Oegema boys were athletic, had/have incredibly charismatic personalities, and laughs/big smiles that would light up a room, but Uncle Rick always stood out amongst Dad’s siblings in all of those categories. He and my Dad were so close in age that I can hardly remember stories from their growing up where Rick and my Dad weren’t playing sports, pulling pranks, and/or getting into trouble together. I admired and looked up to him in ways I never got to communicate to him and loved that we would so easily connect over sports when our extended family was together. I often wished that we could live closer to Dad’s siblings because I loved the friendship they each had when they were together and I wanted to see that unfold on a more regular basis.

In ways that I'm sure only made sense to them, Dad and Uncle Rick got closer when terminal cancer became a part of both of their lives at such an early age. Even in facing cancer/death, they went at it as teammates almost. My Dad was first diagnosed in October 2007 and Uncle Rick was diagnosed in December of 2009, so they both knew what it meant/felt to have to face death and leaving families behind much earlier than either of them ever expected. I remember Dad mentioning on more than one occasion in those "in-between" years that cancer made their conversations with each other so much deeper & that they clearly reminded each other that, when their lives faded here, the only thing that actually mattered was how they loved God and how they loved their families and friends.

Uncle Rick was smart, incredibly hard-working, and yet laid back too in a really wonderful (and rare) way. Of Uncle Rick, his wife Gamble said, “Whenever I think of Rick the first word that comes to mind is brilliant. He was so incredibly smart and talented. His family was very important to him. He was devoted to us and to many friends.”

Before cancer, Uncle Rick was already strong and devoted, but his battle with cancer only highlighted his strength, bravery, and care for those around him. “I was so proud of the strength that he showed in fighting cancer. He never complained but instead encouraged others to keep fighting,” Aunt Gamble wrote.

Of her dad, my cousin Brittany said, “The first thing I think of is how hard working he was. Not only at his job but also at home from small projects/to finishing floors of the house/constantly updating things. He always had a "project" and wanted to have something to work out. Even for those last few years while he was so sick he wanted to be working. He still wanted to be actively involved in his job at work & tried to do as much work as he could from home when he felt up to it. There was a period of time where he was feeling better & even went back to the office for several months to work. He wanted to make sure everything was taken care of. Even in a time where most people would have used being so sick as an excuse to not go to work or not do things around the house that wasn't him.“

But even more than his work-ethic, she remembers his presence. “He was always there. While he was super hardworking, but his family came first. He was at all the sporting games/races/etc. I don't think I understood this part as much until becoming a parent & realizing how hard it is sometimes for both parents to be available & we haven't even reached the crazy activity/schedule yet. But if you wanted him to be somewhere or if you needed help with something he was there.”

When Uncle Rick’s cancer had spread to his brain, my cousin Brittany moved up her wedding date by a few months “because we were afraid he wouldn't be there or be able to make it for the later date.” As it turned out, that decision was a wise one, since Uncle Rick died only a week after their originally scheduled date. There’s no way to describe how thankful I am on Brittany’s behalf that she got her dad with her on her wedding. The pictures of her and Uncle Rick on her wedding day fill my heart with more joy than I know how to explain. I remember looking at the photos a few months after my own Dad died and crying because I was just so happy that even though she wouldn’t get him for so many things after, she would always have that: a stunning gift in the midst of deep pain.

There’s something about walking through cancer and loss that changes us - in profound and yet almost subtle ways. It re-shapes our priorities, shapes our character, and influences the decisions we make in ways that are hard to articulate. And in a upside-down kind of beautiful way, talking with family members about our different journeys with loss has given me new glimpses of the ways God really does weaves redemption in the wake of death - breathing hope and compassion and wisdom into and around the pain.

Brittany speaks beautifully of how cancer made her “really realize how short life can be & living each day (as cliche as that sounds) to the fullest." How it inspired her to give up her full-time income so she could stay at home with Jackson (her adorable son) "because I don't want to miss anything with him." And in regards to faith, "it’s definitely made my faith stronger & relationship with God stronger in the absence of having a dad on earth.”

My Aunt Gam herself is an incredible fighter, and watching her strength, spunk, and selflessness in responding to Uncle Rick’s battle and death has inspired and blown me away again and again. When I asked her how losing Uncle Rick has changed her, she said, “I am a better person for knowing Rick. He had such faith in me. He was my encourager. I blame him for my tenacious spirit. My faith in Jesus Christ is so much stronger today partly due to Rick's fight with cancer. The adversity brought us even closer. I have peace knowing that Rick is healthy and happy in Heaven. Because of what I saw him go through, I continue to help out in the chemo room as a volunteer. I hold hands, I pray with the patients and I try to lift their spirits."

It never ceases to amaze and encourage me that our own pain really does make us more aware of others' pain and more willing to step into those places with them. And, as crazy as it is to articulate as such, how those places are so often the most powerful reminders that hope, compassion, and strength grow in the most unexpected of contexts. It's an honour to not only remember the impact and legacy of the family members that we've lost, but to stand encouraged, inspired, and so proud of the strength of the family members "left behind" too.

And a fun timing story? I pretty randomly picked today as the race for Uncle Rick. But then I found out from Aunt Gamble that Feb. 7th was the day she and Uncle Rick went on their first date - Feb.7th, 1987 - twenty nine years ago today. Her first impression, “I loved his big beautiful smile and the way he looked at me.” Maybe it's the (unashamed!) hopeless romantic in me, but I just love that.

So - here's to you, Uncle Rick. To your spunk, your work-ethic, and your consistent presence & steady support for your family and friends. For facing cancer with such bravery and strength and fighting so so well. It's truly an honour to have know you and been influenced by the person you were and the life you lived. //

Throughout Project Hope, I'll be running a race for each one of my family members that we've lost to cancer - 9 running races in total - and taking part in the Love Does Bike Tour in May 2016. All with the goal to celebrate how crazy beautiful life is, to honour those that we’ve lost to cancer, to mark that cancer and death and injuries and sickness aren't the end of the story, & to support the incredible work of Restore International in Uganda, India, Nepal, Somalia, and Iraq. To find out more about the project: click here, and/or how you can get involved/support this goal: click here.

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