Choose me, my beloved

IMG_0861

But I say to you, ‘I know the purposes I have for you but you must choose me. You must choose me. I cannot pour out all that I have for you until you choose to receive it. A human heart needs to choose its own path, needs to discover its own love, needs to feel free in its decisions. My love is big enough to wait with outstretched arms, because you are my beloved’

‘So lean in my beloved’

‘You find yourself once again at a fork in the road, and there is no enduring failure in either path, but one way in mine and the other is the worlds. In the world, you already know what the path looks like; you already know where it leads. It is easy but its only reward is that you control it. Sure there will be beauty and laughter, but your soul will still long for fulfilment on this path. Your head drives on this path, your heart drives on my path. My path requires eyes of faith for you must step into the unknown, you must to go to places inside of yourself you have never gone before, but you will never go alone. You must let go of fear, and grab onto my power, my might, my ability to do all things. My path’s rewards are immeasurable; you will know what it feels like to have your soul set on fire, to be poured into as much as out of, to be fully alive, not just existing.’

‘So my beloved, you choose.’

‘I will always walk you back to this place if you choose the world’s path. My path never goes away, it is always there for you to choose. But I need all of you. My beloved, this means I also need your trust. Trust that you are my beloved and that I will sow nothing but beauty and grace through you. ‘

‘So choose my beloved.’

‘If I chose for you, I wouldn’t have all of you. That is why this decision is yours. If I chose for you, you would always question if I was right. That is why this decision is yours. If I chose for you, you would waver in your belief that this is the way for you. That is why this decision is yours. And I promise beloved if your heart is already mine, stop listening to the lies that anyone else can hold you heart the way I can, and my purposes will be already in your hands.’

‘So choose my beloved’

‘If you chose my path, you will be the beacon of love you so desire. Your heart knows you do not lust after the riches of this world, your heart longs for the people of this world. I gave you a heart of service, I gave you a heart of love, I gave you a heart of hope; chose the path that uses that heart, chose the path which allows you to become fully alive. I didn’t create you to exist. I created you to be alive.’

‘So come my beloved.’

‘Live the life you love; you are not going to take any of this with you when I take you to the place I promised. There are no resumes, there are no elites, there is no money, there is no power in man, there is only your heart in that place. No one is going to ask how many square feet your house was, how much money you made, how many countries you travelled, how skinny you were, or how far you ran; all that will be known is that loved with every fibre of your human being, and then beyond what humanity can do alone’

‘So come my beloved.’

‘Your life is a gift from me to you; from me to the world. You will not answer to anyone but me about how you used it; how you lived it. You will not be compared to anyone else; you are you and that’s all I ever intended. You are not intended to fulfill the purposes your parents have for your life. You are not intended to fulfill the purposes of this world. You are not intended to fulfill the purposes of your friends. Your heart longs to fulfill my purposes rooted in beauty unfathomable, joy indescribable, and freedom abounding.’

‘So come my beloved’

‘That ‘well done’ your heart seeks so zealously, can be spoken by none by me. No one else’s ‘well done’ will reach the soul in the place where that longing sits.’

‘So come my beloved’

‘Walk in faith, trust in my purposes, and seek me first. Find strength in my unconditional love for you, find power in my power, find hope in that that is to come. I have chosen you, and I will love you no matter how far you wander. My choice knows no boundaries, no conditions. I made you more perfect than the wind. I made every ounce of you to accomplish all your heart’s desires, for your desires are my desires.’

‘So come my beloved’

‘Don’t take another step down that path of longing, of worry, of fear, and of confusion. Chose me and let me direct your paths. Walk in my protection and my might. Chose me. It is time my beloved, let it all go, and chose me.’

‘So trust in me, with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding. But in all your ways acknowledge me, and I will direct your path”

-From God with love, Feb 22.15

I’d rather be brave in love, than guarded in fear….

sa

February 14 2015.

3 years exactly.

Calgary airport. February 14, 2012.

I said goodbye to my mom for the very last time. I hugged her through her tears and told her how much I loved her. I told her how much I believed in her. And then I let go and boarded that plane.

And I’ve been boarding planes ever since hoping that one day when I touch down she will be standing there, where I left her, armed with a hug and an “I love you.” But on days like today, I’m reminded that the truth is her love has never left me. No matter how many countries I’ve gone to, how many planes I’ve boarded, how many places I have planted my feet, she’s always there.

She’s always been there.

When I was in grade 9 and I moved away for the very first time, in our tearful goodbye, she whispered, “You can’t lose me. Wherever you go. No matter how far. My love is where you are.”* Love is crazy like that. It isn’t something that fades when a person physically leaves our presence; it is the kind of thing that lives inside of us.

Love is alive.

There are going to be people in our lives that we’ve loved and lost but that love we shared with them continues inside of us. Just because the people we love are gone, does not mean their love is gone.

Love is eternal.

Love is what moves us into the deepest places of our lives. It is what forces us to open up those most vulnerable places. It is what makes us feel most alive.

Love changes us.

Even though I will never get to say “I love you” one more time to my mama, I get to whisper it everyday in the way I choose to live my life. I can live my life being afraid of days like these, because I guarantee there will be days throughout my life when I say “I love you” for the very last time, or I can live my life seeking opportunities to pour out love into this world, despite days like these. I’d rather be brave in love, than guarded in fear.

Love is a decision.

I’ve seen the heartache in this world first hand. I have experienced it first hand. I have wanted to surrender to it. I have wanted to give into it. But in every situation I have faced, the one thing that has always conquered the darkness, is love. Because love wins.

Love always, always wins.

So don’t be afraid of the last time your get to say “I love you.” Be brave and say it today, tomorrow, and for as long as you get. Let love change you. Let it work into the most fearful parts of you. Let it radiate light into your darkness.  Let it give you light for other people’s darkness. Let love live in you.

Choose love.

And don’t forget to say “I love you” to the most important person of all….yourself. You are worth so so much love. Until you love yourself, you will never be able to fully accept love from another; nor will any love you find in another fill the spaces deep in yourself earmarked for the love that comes from within.

Love is work but its rewards are endless

So Go love. Go say it for the first time. Go say it again. Go say it by showing up. Go fight for it. Go.

*It was our song: Faith Hill, You Can’t Lose Me

We will be the hopeful

IMG_2752

The other day I was wearing my TWOLHA t-shirt that simply says “We will be the hopeful.” Someone in the airport asked me what that meant- what it is that “we” were going to be hopeful for. And my answer was simply “light.”

I spend a lot of my days pouring over heartaches in the world, whether it is from friends, or family, or work, but it always reminds me how much darkness creeps into each of our lives. How many moments do we spend disappointed with ourselves, wishing we were something better, something more, something less? How many moments do we spend asking why me? Or when will this end?

But the reality is we have a choice. We can choose to live in that darkness or to seek light. We can choose to be beacons of light into the lives of others. We can choose to see obstacles or opportunities. We can choose to be the hopeful.

I’ve come to realize that life is not fair. Life is never going to make sense. I will never know why everyone suffers. I will never know why some people will have mountains to climb while others have hills. I will never be able to save everyone from pain. I will never be able to save everyone. I will never know or be able to do a lot of things. But what I do know is that I can live my life hopeful; I can choose to bring light into this world.

The next question the man in the airport asked was what is “light”. I smiled and said it is the kind of love that shows up. It isn’t convenient. It isn’t easy. It is the fighting kind of love. It a shoulder to lean on, a love letter, a compliment. It’s the kind of love that cares about the real answer to how are you. It is the kind that keeps promises. One that is slow to anger. One that is gracious. It is the kind that never fails. It is the kind that recognizes that we are blessed and that this world will die in darkness if we don’t use that blessing to bless others.

A lot of people tell me that I do great things because I help people in Africa but the truth is we all can do great things. We spend a lot of time belittling our ability to bless others when the truth is we all possess the one thing that everyone needs. We all have love. You don’t need to go to Africa, you don’t even need to go to a homeless shelter, you just need to go to the people next to you. Blessing others doesn’t require anything more than you and the light you hold inside.

So my wish this year for all of you is to be a light; to be the hopeful. May you show up when people need you, even if they can’t say those words. May you be fearless in love, even when you’ve been hurt before. May you help each other chase your dreams. May you be a rock in someone’s storm. May you recognize your worth, your blessing, and your importance in this beautiful mess we call life.

And may WE BE THE HOPEFUL

If you are looking for ways to get involved in something different this year check these out:

Help me sponsor 7 kids to go to school in Kenya

Write Love Letters

Donate your birthday to Charity Water

Support To Write Love on Her Arms

This is not a condemnation but a plea from the bottom of my broken heart

IMG_1641

Today, I found myself almost in tears on my rooftop. Tears over all the parts of the world that continue to break my heart. The parts that I can’t fathom. The parts where it is okay for children to starve, humans to suffer, and women to walk behind.

Over the past couple of weeks it has become increasingly apparent to me how the treatment of women as less than equal isn’t something we can merely blame on culture or religion, but rather on our acceptance as humans that this is tolerable. Because the truth is, it doesn’t just happen on the other side of the world. It doesn’t just happen in foreign belief systems, it happens everywhere. And it isn’t just supported by men, but also women themselves.

For the past week I have been listening to stories of women who have had their freedom to make choices about their life, stripped from their grasp. It has never been because of something they did, but rather the fact that the were created to carry babies. Something that should have caused them to be revered as a blessing, has instead brought silence to their lips, mutilation to their bodies, and bruises to their skin. As I saw the pain in these women’s eyes I couldn’t help but feel enraged by the disgusting parts of my world that continually tell women that they are not equal; that they don’t deserve the freedom to choose a life for themselves.

I would love to blame this on someone else’s culture, on the beliefs in a foreign land but the truth is the story is the same in Canada, it just looks a little different. I have seen a life be taken by a narcissistic boyfriend. I have seen a man steal a woman’s self-worth with lies about her dog’s level intelligence and her ugly heart. I have seen a woman cut into her arms the word that he used to degrade her, just so maybe the pain inside could be visible out. I have seen a man decide how a woman dressed, what she listened to, what she watched, who she talked to, where she worked, where she went, and virtually every aspect that constitutes a life. I have seen a man isolate a woman from her family, from her friends, from her own soul. And I have seen a man treat a woman as merely another possession, to be handled, to be used, to be discarded.

I have seen so many women allow a man to decide who they should be. Sometimes this is because they don’t know any different. Sometimes it is because they were raised that way. Sometimes it is because they are broken inside from trauma as a child. Sometimes it is because they are broken from the hands or words of another man. And sometimes it is because other women and our society tell them this is okay.

So this is not a condemnation but a plea from the bottom of my broken heart. We as females are never going to be the same as men, but it doesn’t mean we are not equal. I don’t condemn men. We have created systems where men dominate. Systems of religion, culture, business, and governance where men are told they have power over women and women are to be submissive. So it isn’t on the shoulders of men but on the shoulders of humans to ask ourselves what our positions of power and dominance are rooted in. It is on us as humans to seek value in every human being not based on anything physical but how we interact with one another and contribute to society. And finally it is on us as humans to demand and respect the rights of every soul to choose for themselves who they want to be.

And lastly this is a plea to the women, girls, reading this blog. You deserve to be loved as much as you love. You do not need anyone else to tell you how much you are worth. You are beautiful, you are able, and you are always going to be okay. True love, for God, for another person, for your family, will never make your life worse than before. It will never make you feel less adequate or wrong. It will never tell you that this is the best you can do, but will propel you to achieve more. True love breathes life into your existence. It inspires you, it enables you, it strengthens you. It is not isolating, it is freeing. It isn’t perfect but it is trying. Wait for true love, because I promise you, you don’t know how lucky you are to have the ability to do so.

The first love letter…..

IMG_0488

Dear the amazing people I am blessed to share this space with,

Over the past year, one of my best kept secrets has been a girl named Hannah Brencher. Her and I have never met, but there are days I feel like no one but Jesus knows me better. She is someone who can find the words to say everything I wish I knew how to say. She is bravely honest and a lover of the world. Hannah is truly a game changer.

One of the greatest changes finding Hannah’s blog has brought into my life, is an intoxicating desire to be part of her movement to revive the art of love letter writing. No, not the sappy ones you write to the love of your life, but love letters to strangers. Strangers who aren’t really strangers because we are all united by the desire inside every one of us to be loved; a desire to have someone tell us everything is going to be okay. The people on the other end of these letters are just like you and I; people searching for beauty, strength, hope, purpose, courage, acceptance, or simply to have someone say “hey, you matter.” It is a revival aimed at pouring out love in a world where fear often keeps us from being selflessly loving; where we miss out on building people up because of our own trepidation towards vulnerability.

I’ll let you read for yourself about how the movement started but writing these love letters to people who submit requests to Hannah’s organization, More Love Letters, has been a life changing experience. As I pour out encouragement and love for these people I have never met, I remind myself of all the things beautiful and triumphant about life. I am reminded of the commonality of brokenness and the human aching to be in relationship with one another. I am reminded that sometimes we need to take a quiet moment and be thankful for the blessings we have been given. I am reminded that encouraging one another should never be something we fear. I am reminded that feeling compassion and love for someone should never be something we are embarrassed about. And I am reminded that living a life overflowing with love for our fellow humans should never be discouraged. Because, after all, love always wins.

I love writing these letters so much that I was not about to let being in Somaliland stop me from pouring out my love on the world in this way. So I have decided to post my letters here. Some will be to the people with requests on More Love Letters but others will be letters I have written to someone I love, someone I loved, and someone I hope to love.

The dream is that you will read these letters and be encouraged. Maybe some of you will even join me in pouring out a little love on the world.

Always and Forever

Me.

 

There is never going to be anybody else in this world just like you….

Dear Jessie:

I can never say that I understand what it is like to be inside your body; inside your head. I don’t know the thoughts you battle or the pain you endure. But I do know what it feels like to lose someone to that battle, and I can promise you that life would never be better without you. You are more loved than you can imagine; and more important than you will ever know. No one can ever take your place. You hold a special spot in the hearts of everyone lucky enough to know you.

I know that the road ahead will sometimes seem impassable but you are equipped to win this war. It is a day by day thing and it is okay to ask for help. Sharing your story with your friends and family shows your incredible strength. I admire you for your courage. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but be honest with yourself. Take refuge in the smallest delights and simplest beauty.

And Jessie, more than anything else I have written here, I want you to remember this:

There is never going to be anybody else in this world just like you; there will be nobody else to fill your role. You are a unique puzzle piece in this world. You are the only one with your smile. You are the only one with your laugh. You were uniquely made for the life you were meant to live. You were equipped with a perfect mixture of strengths and weaknesses that allow you to feed into others’ lives like no one else. There can never be another Jessie, and I promise the world is much better with you in it.

So take heart my friend. I’ll be praying for you and cheering you on from thousands of miles away.

Always and Forever

Me.

 

Jessie’s story from her sister: “My darkest hours came recently after my sister divulged that she had been on the brink of committing suicide a few months earlier. Anyone who meets her sees a brilliant, beautiful, and funny young woman. Only God knows why she cannot see that in herself.  My family worked to get her help and she is on the road to better mental health, but it is a long, difficult journey.  There are still times when I see her withdraw from friends and family.  She is in desperate need of uplifting letters that would touch her heart during times of isolation and anxiety. I sincerely believe she would be thrilled knowing that complete strangers cared enough for her well-being to take the time to send her a love letter.”

Five things that remind me I’m in Somaliland…..

 
IMG_1585

  1. Hot water costs not only money but the use of your pretty pink razor

After cold showers for a week, bucket showers for three days, the last sacrifice I was forced to make for the hot water heater in my bathroom was my lady schick razor. Apparently, using someone’s razor while completing plumbing duties is perfectly acceptable behavior, because they didn’t even try to hide it. Black hairs everywhere, on the sink, in my razor, I couldn’t help but laugh with a disgusted look on my face.

2. Carbs on carbs is a staple in this new household

When I first got here, I was thrilled to hear that our house lady cooked us lunch everyday. That was until I knew our menu went as follows: rice, spaghetti with potato stew, rice, spaghetti with potato stew, rice, spaghetti with potato stew, rice, spaghetti with potato stew, rice, spaghetti with potato stew. Carbs on carbs on carbs. Everyday, when I evaluate my ability to take one more bite of rice, I wonder if tomorrow will somehow miraculously be different.

3. The reflection in a window is the only option for assessing that carb on carb diet

I honestly haven’t been able to see if my clothes match, fit, or are dirty for the past three weeks. However, matching is fairly easy when you have only six options for maxi-skirts and ten for tops. There also hasn’t been too much rain so mud leg isn’t a huge fear for the dirtiness factor. And from what I can tell Mr.Horton and I are doing an okay job of battling the carbs on carbs on carbs: ‘Do your best and forget the rest’

4. Its sometimes a cost-benefit analysis between how bad you have to go and how many cockroaches there are

I’ve officially seen ten cockroaches since being here, and every single one has been standing between me and the queen’s throne. Currently, we are at a draw about who wins.

5. Entertainment requires creativity

  1. I have been pleasantly surprised at the innovation that the expat community here has shown in their creativity in a very conservative Muslim culture. So far, on Fridays (our only day off), I have been able to play disc golf, bocce ball and basketball, attend an expat band practice with guitars, drums, and microphones, listen to live local music, eat mexican food and dance. Life truly is what you make it.

—–I can honestly say that this is one of the most difficult places I have ever lived, but also one of the most intriguing. Throughout my work, and my interactions with the community around me, all of the things I believed about this place when I dreamt about coming here, have been reinforced. These people are truly resilient and strong willed. They really will not compromise what they believe in for anyone. They are complex and frustrating. They are hardworking and smart. They are a beautiful mixture of determination and stubbornness.

 

So when everyone asks me how it is, my answer has always been: an adventure. Everyday I find myself facing paradoxes that make be evaluate the things I believe and the strength of humanity. Everyday I find myself assessing my own strength and limitations; my aspirations and my fears. Everyday I am reminded that not everything needs a label, it is okay sometimes to just be right where your feet are.

 

I will always be here holding your heart and all things beautiful…

IMG_1519

I hate how it takes me getting back down on my knees to bargain for freedom before I realize how far I have let myself slip. Every time I offer up a bargaining chip, He throws it across the room. The stakes are too high here for any of that. There is nothing I could put on the table that He already doesn’t control. So what am I doing here? What do I bring to the table?

Me.

That is it.

That is everything.

As another chip gets thrown against the wall, He speaks softly, calmly, deeply, “There are no condition keeping you from who you are. You don’t need to bargain for a grace already offered”

The words hit me like a thousand pound boulder. Why do I think I need this thing, this approval, this affection before I can be that person I see in my dreams?

I can see the pain in His eyes. The kind of pain that comes with the deepest rejection. The pain that whispers “You are not enough.” It breaks my heart to know I caused that. Those words are not from my heart, but I can’t seem to get my actions to follow my soul. I can’t seem to wait for the promise. I can’t seem to stop causing us both so much unneeded pain.

Without anything to promise, without anything to offer, I weep. I weep for the disappointment I feel I have become. I weep for everything I was too afraid to be. I weep for the faith I lost.

This is it.

This is the bottom.

This is the place where the thoughts never to be spoken about creep in. This is the place your soul becomes vulnerable to the lies and fears waiting to take you into the darkness.

And its this place, on the edge of defeat, where leaders are born. Those people who refuse to allow the mistakes they’ve made decide who they will be. Those people who tell life to take a step back because its valleys will not win. It is here world changers are chosen. Those people who accept the pain, tragedy, and regret, self-inflicted or selflessly taken, and begin searching for ways to rise again. Those people who refuse to listen to the people, the places, the guilt that says “It is over.” It is here, in the reassessment of everything that makes a life worth living, that this truth reigns:

“You already are that person you want to be. You already are so loved. You already deserve the promise. Not all is lost. Stand up. Try again. Just be. One battle, one step, one thought at a time. You have never gone too far to be found. No promise you make will reclaim the love or the plans for your life. It is impossible to reclaim something you never lost. I have great plans for you, I always have. No matter how far you run, or how lost you may feel…..I will always be here holding your heart and all things beautiful.”

As I rise abounding with gratitude and conviction, I feel a familiar hand on my shoulder. A hand that reminds me day in, day out that there is someone on the throne bigger than all of this. That there is a love greater than all of this. That there is hope stronger than all of this. No more chips, no more shame, no more fear, just me and the valleys and peaks between where I am and everything He intended me to be.

This is her story and this is mine…..

IMG_0173

The truth is I used to hate the word suicide. I used to think it was a cop out for putting in the hard work. I thought it was a word people threw out when they didn’t want to deal with the consequences of their actions. It was a threat I’d heard too many times to believe. I used to say there was no forgiveness for something that selfish. There was no grace for that kind of end.

Three years ago, however, I realized how wrong I was. I witnessed the kind of pain it takes to push someone to that threat, to that attempt. I saw the kind of brokenness that keeps closing in, covering every glimpse of light in a life. I watched hopelessness become a reality. I saw the most important person in my life begin to lose the battle.

I watched doctors try to medicate it. I listened to psychiatrists deem her a lost cause. I saw her ripped apart by the evil parts of this world. I listened to her say there is no where to go; no one to understand; no one could ever possibly overcome her kind of pain. I heard her sobs of loneliness, even though I was right there. I heard her desire for love, that I couldn’t alone fill. I saw her will to fight, and then I saw her strength disappear.

I wish I would have been able to save her; been able to love her back. I wish I could have made her see no one else can play her part. Despite my own fight, that day, that most painful day came. She was gone.

I wasn’t angry. I didn’t blame her. I didn’t think of her as selfish. I didn’t think of her as a coward. Instead, I just missed her. I just wished the world would have taken her in its arms sooner. I wished we all wouldn’t have been too busy, too tired, too afraid to do the hard work. I wished we would have been able to feed into her, to make her believe she mattered, to find the people who could help her. I wished we would have validated her, tried harder to see life through her eyes. I wished suicide wasn’t our story.

But here I am, over two years later, putting this word to paper for the first time since that day.

Suicide.

There has been a part of me listening to a voice inside my head telling me that as long as I didn’t say this word, it wouldn’t be real. A voice that said keep moving, keep going places where instead of the truth you could say she died of cancer. Cancer doesn’t bring the judgement that losing someone to suicide does. Cancer isn’t a choice, so there can be no one blame. You can’t be held responsible for cancer. Cancer doesn’t mean the image of perfection that was falsely built up around you comes shattering down in the rumors of a small town. I let that voice allow the shame that led to her suicide live on in me; in a way I let that voice tell me to be ashamed of her story. 

But today I am taking a stand against that voice because this is her story and this is mine. I didn’t choose suicide, but it is part of who I am. It is part of my journey. And I am not ashamed of my mothers story. I am ashamed that we as humanity run away from this word, as if we don’t all have a role to play in its existence. I am ashamed that we don’t fight harder to protect those battling the reality of mental health issues. I am ashamed that we don’t choose love.

So as I continue down this journey, I hope I can use our story to bring light into other people’s darkness. I hope I can show others that they are not alone. I hope I can inspire others to pour out love, grace, and compassion.  And I hope more than anything that through our story, the world will see that love always wins.

http://twloha.com/

Top 10 things 5 days in Somaliland has taught me……

IMG_1590

Top 10 things 5 days in Somaliland has taught me……

Firstly,  there is nothing that prepares you for thekilling of your first giant cockroach upon arrival in a new place.

Secondly, when you have to get your measurements for a bridesmaids dress done asap and there is no dress maker in sight, you can take them using toilet paper. Who knew each piece was approximately 5 inches long?

Thirdly, when in Somaliland, eat like a Somalilander, camel meat, camel milk, camel burgers.

Fourthly, rise with the call to prayer at 4:50. There is nothing like an early start.

Fifthly, wearing a hijab with a round giant head is a blow to the self-confidence.

Sixth, workout in the morning because the only shower you get is cold.

Seventh, maxi skirts, birkenstocks, and oversized shirts are high fashion.

Eighth, inshallah is an essential part of your vocabulary.

Ninth, opening a tin can with a dull knife is an hour long process.

And lastly, but not least…..flush toilets are nothing to take for granted.