The final lap

I realized yesterday that in a few short weeks, I will be entering into the very last year of my 20s.

I was sitting on Julia’s couch, gabbing about the accomplishment of partially teaching Isaac to say my name, my goal before my birthday, when it dawned on me that my deadline was now in terms of weeks, and much sooner than I thought. Julia was quick to point out that it was the last of the 20s, with a big grin.

The end of an era.

A milestone I have long looked forward to, truthfully.

People say that your thirties are totally different. But good different.

I’m pretty pumped about the whole thing. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I kinda do feel a bit like a fine wine, slowly getting better over time.

I feel like this back half of my 20s have felt very…vivid, is the only word I can come up with in attempt to describe it.

The highs and the lows have all felt very vivid.

The balance of life, if you will, but with the good majorly out weighing the bad, thank God.

Michael proposed and we faced some of the tougher challenges of life together in these years – I’m so grateful for our friendship, love and passion for one another because it meant we faced them together and grew even stronger as a team. Go us! Some of those challenges would have been so much harder to face alone, almost unbearable for me.

I’ve been able to take some very negative more recent experiences in my career life, and cling desperately to the feeling I have in my soul that it’s all for a very specific reason. When you’re not listening to the tiny whisper in your soul, life has this funny way of redirecting until we ‘get it’.

I got it.

Well, I haven’t yet. But I know I’m well on my way, and leaps and bounds closer than I was a month ago.

I’m getting it.

I said to a long lost friend the other day that I am not who I was a few years ago because something amazing has a chance of happening when you hit rock bottom and are severely wounded in the process by some of the people that you cared for the most.

I was lucky enough to look around when I hit that proverbial bottom and in doing so realized that I came out clean with the people who truly matter sticking by me through it all.

Now that is a blessing of a bounce if you ask me. To know who is on your team no matter what kind of shitty day you’ll have to face is pretty fabulous.

The part about getting older that I love the most though, is the odd realization of how precious time is.

This will help you make time for the people that are important, that you care about, and give you the reasoning for saying “no” to the ones who just aren’t. The double edge sword of this is coming to the slow realization of who made exactly that decision about us, and determined we just weren’t worth the spending of precious time.

But it’s part of life, of growth, of growing up.

Letting people go is something most people, myself included, have had to face by this stage of life – whether by choice, or even harder, death. It’s the ache of what’s left behind, what almost happened, the words you wish you’d said sooner, the forgiveness you wish you’d given faster, the moments you wished you would have paid more attention to. Some, you never quite get over.

As I stride towards 30, I’m fighting for that balance between a heart that loves as wildly as my beautiful nieces and nephews, as cautiously as my jaded nature needs me to and a soul that always stays a little bit tender with some hope, no matter what.

I’m hoping that my ever increasing love of yoga will help to keep me more mindful, present and most importantly help me to remember to keep breathing – something I’ve been known to have trouble with. I feel like part of my rebuilding process from this latest bump in the road has to largely be attributed to my involvement with my practice.

My favourite breakthrough I’ve had with yoga so far is that my intense desire to be still should be fed.

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Psalm 46:10

Being still allows you to see and hear things that God wants you to know, but are too busy rushing around with daily responsibilities to hear.

It connects you back to your heart, forces you to take a listen. Can often help you to see.

Recently it helped me confront a situation that has been giving me all sorts of heartache without the fear of not being in control of the outcome – my usually crippling downfall.

How completely liberating.

To be totally honest, brazen if you will, with someone and then let go enough to accept whatever may come, doesn’t come naturally to me by any means. But over the past 5 years, I have realized this practice is so important for survival.

Couple that with the understanding that everyone in your life has only a certain amount of love to give you – for some people that means heaps and heaps of love, and for some that means it may leave you struggling to understand why they treat you the way they do. The kicker here is figuring out that you have the opportunity to either accept that love, or walk away from it. You get to truly choose if the way someone shows you love, and how much they are capable of giving, is acceptable to you. I find peace in the knowing it doesn’t reflect on your heart by any means and that often times it has nothing to do with you at all.

Hardest. Lesson. Ever.

I’m feeling better and better about this old soul of mine as I prepare to take this next lap around the sun, the final of my 20s. I feel like I am so much closer to where I want to be spiritually, physically and mentally, as a person – the truly important milestones.

I really can’t wait to learn what’s next.

~ Toni

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Leaving

We made a huge decision last year. A decision that rocked our home and our family. A decision that had been a long time coming, yet still was impossible to predict.

We decided to stop going to church.

Ben and I both come from a long tradition of attending church services on a regular basis. His grandparents went to the church that his mom and dad both attended, and he attended the same church his entire life. My parents found the church we were attending when I was less than a year old and had been members for my entire life.

Last year, we changed that.

Leaving a church is not something we had ever thought we would do. Ben and I met through the church’s youth group. Ben was a minister and head choir leader. I was crazy involved as an organist, a Sunday School teacher and leader, and a choir member. We decided to live in the city we do because of church, even though when we got married we were looking for work in other cities. We didn’t want to commute to the place where we spent a third of our time. At the height of our involvement, if we weren’t at home or work, we were at church. We LIVED church. And loved it.

We had a community of believers that were living the same life we were, that had the families and the marriages that we wanted, that were the volunteers we strove to be, and were our friends.

And then we had Sophie.

I’m not blaming Sophie, but as you know (or maybe you don’t…) after you have a kid EVERYTHING changes. EVERYTHING. Think of something, anything, in your life. Now, have a kid and it’s CHANGED. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done (as any new parent will confirm). And because I had an undiagnosed round of PPD, it was worse. And my interaction with the church, because it was SOMETHING, changed. But we still held on.

Then we had Lillian. And I broke even more because PPD with a newborn and a toddler looks vastly different than PPD with just a newborn. And in therapy I was told if I wanted to survive, to live, to keep my family together, to keep me together, I would have to take a hard look at our extracurricular activities, or things that we were doing or were involved in that weren’t an absolute necessity, like eating, or bathing, or sleeping. Getting dressed didn’t even make the list, so volunteering in the church, attending church services regularly, being involved were no longer options. So, we stepped back and attended when we could, and weren’t involved anymore.

And then we had Isaac. And all hell broke loose. People say that having three kids is harder than having two, which is harder than having just one, and that going from none to one is by far the biggest change. In our experience, this has all held true. Having three is switching the defense from man-to-man to zone, and being outnumbered all the time, not just when one parent is out of the room. It’s hard and crazy and, now that everyone is sleeping again, awesome. But, there was no way we could pick up where we were in the church, where we were in the community, where we were when we were a family of two, or three, or even four. We were five and church was a really hard thing to maintain.

This was half of our trouble with our church. The other half is a long, complicated story of intimate details I won’t go into. I love lots of people who still go to the church. I respect so many people who go to the church. And I’m not going to use this platform or any other public forum to tear apart such a personal piece of people’s lives. If you have a true relationship with God, and you have found the best place for you to worship, you know what a deep commitment and what an intricate piece of your life it is. This post is not to rip apart what other people have with our old church. It’s to talk about what it was for us.

Our biggest trouble was feeling like there was a lack of support for young families and specifically young mothers. So when the bottom dropped out on our lives, we lost all the connections we had with our faith and with our worship.

I think it’s important here to describe the difference between faith and worship. It’s as different as belief in God and organized religion. There’s God, the perfect being, the One who loves you through everything and anything, and the religions that are man-made, imperfect bodies set upon this earth to help us get closer to Him. The trouble? All of those man-made rules, judgments and complications. For us, our relationship with God was there, through ups and downs, but our ability to worship and to receive support in our relationship with God was destroyed and non-existent. We loved God. He loved us (because that will always be). But we had lost our place in a community of believers. We had lost our connection through worship, which is singing, praising, working and sitting in that community of believers and hearing God’s word.

It hurt. A lot. And it just kept hurting. Until I decided that I needed more.

So I told Ben that. I explained to him that I couldn’t go on not worshiping, but that I couldn’t go back to how we had always worshiped. I told him that I wanted to go church shopping. I told him that I needed to go church shopping. And then I asked him what he thought. And then I started apologizing.

Asking someone to change pieces of their faith or all of their faith, or having someone jump ship on the faith when you have spent your entire lives and relationship believing and worshiping together, in my opinion, can be such a blow. It’s like you had a deal and the other person reneges in the worst, biggest, most awful way ever.

I needed to find a way to worship but I hated that I was asking Ben to give up everything for it.

So we talked and talked and I cried, and we talked and talked, and I apologized and cried some more, and we decided – we’d go shopping. We’d keep an open mind. We’d look for the support that we so desperately needed. And we’d attempt to find a church that would work for our little family, not necessarily one that worked for the generations of church-goers before us.

We have found a church and a community that gives us the opportunity to worship in a completely different, yet sacred way. We have found a church that is giving us support that our former church just couldn’t muster. We have found a place to sing and praise and stand in a community of believers again where it doesn’t hurt quite so much.

It still hurts. It hurt over Thanksgiving when we weren’t in our old congregation with the altar laden with harvest and the singing being incredible and feeling of gratitude overwhelming us. It hurt over Christmas when we didn’t go to church on Christmas morning because there are no services in our new church. It hurts every time I see a minister get up to serve and I know that for Ben, if we stay in this new place, that it will never happen for him again, whereas he had that opportunity in our former church. It hurts when I think about all of the people that we have left behind, people who loved us and helped us get started as a couple and as a family, people who baptized our babies and loved them like their own. It hurts.

But.

It doesn’t hurt as much as nothing or as returning to old habits that don’t work for our family anymore.

And it feels lovely to be sitting at the feet of God again, praying in a community again, loving other believers again. It feels good. And it feels like there’s hope. It’s hope-full. It’s promise-filled. And for now, for today, it’s working for us.

I never in a million years thought that we would leave our church. I watched other people leave and I didn’t understand it, I worried for them and their souls, I shook my head in disbelief.

And now we are in a place of such flux, of leaving and of looking, of trying to find a way to stay and being resigned to look elsewhere, and all I know now is that God loves us. He’s there, like always, like forever. And we have found a way for today to worship with others like us.

~ Julia

A new year, a new hope

New Year’s resolutions have never been my thing. Of course, I have goals, but they have nothing to do with a January 1st deadline.

I have dreams, but those are literally farfetched things that won’t happen (e.g. Grow wings and fly to Brazil).

I do have hopes. So here is my list of hopes for the New Year.

I hope I won’t fall down too often, and if and when I do, I hope I won’t beat myself up too much when I pick myself up and keep going forward.

I hope I will be able to let go of the little things and enjoy the moment without worrying so much.
1I hope I can see the bright side of everything and everyone this year.
2I hope I can just be happy, and stop hurting myself, or letting others in to hurt me.

I hope I will have a full day of just smiles, and laughter.

I hope I can grow closer to my sisters.
34I hope I have new adventures this year! Amazing adventures.

I hope I don’t lose sight of myself and my weirdness, because it’s what makes me me.
5I hope that I don’t wonder once this year, ‘What if?’
6I hope for this year to be better, in work, in life, in love, and I hope that I brought the tools from last year forward, so I can do these things.

I hope Joe and I keep getting better with every bump and bruise. I hope we keep becoming more awesome.

I have hope that everyone’s years will be better, and that we all will have an amazing year ahead for families, all our friends and us.

~ Andreah

Time, wishes, choices, and an inevitable roller coaster

“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.” – John Green*

He has a point. Do you ever notice that you feel panicked at the end of a long day, and just feel like you could have done more, or finished a project if you just had a little more time. I feel like that about long distance sistering. I feel as though I am stuck in a long day, and I will never have enough time to be there, and around for my sisters, my family, and my friends.

“The world is not a wish granting factory.” – John Green*

But what if the world was a wish granting factory? We would be able to accomplish all that we ever wanted to in a single day. We would be able to make our world a better place, and we would be able to, in my case, feel more apart of your families by choice, or families by nature.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world… but you do have some say in who hurts you.
I like my choices.” – John Green*

But I am, in a way, happy that I miss my sisters, my family, my friends. It means that I have a lot of love spread around, and for the people who never gave up on me, and for the people who are always there for me, they are the ones I miss and I know who miss me. I am glad that even though I am hurt by the distance, and feel as though I am missing several limbs because of the absence, when I finally see everyone again, it will be a very sweet moment and I will feel emotionally full.

“I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” – John Green*

Right now, as I sit here typing this, I am on that roller coaster.

I understand it in a whole new perspective. That even though things are going wrong, and distance is created even more difficult by absence, and horrid timing of things breaking (the truck), I know with hope I can go see them, and soon.  Soon we will have everything righted again, me and Joe can work through this and I can see my all encompassing family again. My roller coaster is hope, and I am strapped in for the ride.

~ Andreah

*John Green is one of my favourite writers. He has a way of making a book for young adults reach out to everyone. These quotes are from one of my favourite books of his, The Fault in Our Stars, or TFiOS, as the nerd fighters say. This book is also becoming a movie and its release date is June 6th of this year.