for the little things

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For the comfort in old friendships, the potential in new ones.

For the sound the leaves make as my feet swish through them on my walk home from work.

For fresh sheets.

For the first sip of coffee in the morning- magical, each and every day.

For music that is an experience, not just organized sound.

For hugs.

For the journal I finished last week and the journey I went on as I re-read the last year of my life.

For blank cards.

For my music students who keep me laughing and learning.

For smiles and kind words at exactly the right moment.

For love, in its plethora of forms.

For inside jokes.

For the blessing and burden of feeling life intensely.

For chances to do what I really, really love.

For growth.

For Forgiveness.

For Just Knowing.

For the little things that string together to make our interwoven lives so beautiful and meaningful.

I am so very, very grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, sweet readers. May you be surrounded by loved ones, gratitude and warmth this weekend.

xo

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ears of my ears & eyes of my eyes

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Saturday was an absolutely glorious day that felt more like a midsummer day than the first weekend in October. Kaylene and I deemed it a perfect opportunity to do the Coppermine hiking trail, one I’d been hoping to do for a while but never seemed to get around to.

Unsurprisingly, the trek to the top of the hill is, well, uphill. Maybe it was fatigue from another crazy week of little sleep or just the absence of regular physical activity in the last few weeks for me that made it feel tough. The tree branch that practically drove itself into my forehead because I was too busy looking down at my feet to see it coming might have had something to do with it too.

Either way, we stopped a couple times (okay a few) on the way to catch our breath and give our burning legs a rest.

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At one point, while making a joke about how the only thing we could hear was the near-deafening pounding of our hearts in our ears, we actually remained completely quiet and still for a moment and just listened.

No wind, no cars, no voices. Just our breathing and our hearts hammering in our chests.

The stark contrast of the stillness from the usual noise of life was both alarming and comforting in that moment.

I recently read an article in BrainWorld called Nature Deficit Disorder. It speaks about the negative effects of being disconnected from nature and too connected to/through technology. It suggests that the growing number of children being diagnosed with ADD may be a direct result of too much time indoors and not enough time spent being exposed to nature. (You can listen to/read some more about this here )

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The article quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said ” the whole of nature is a metaphor for the human mind”. He and several other great literary heroes have warned of the dangers of losing our connection to nature- that it would result in “the corruption of the body, mind and spirit.”

All you have to do is look at our society to see they weren’t far off. We are a society that daily deprives itself of moments of spiritual and mental freedom because we’re too busy being busy and trying to get ahead and staring at our phones. (GUILTY.)

I will never claim to be an “outdoorsy” person, and I definitely prefer to sleep in my own bed than in a lean-to in the woods. But in the past couple of years I have started to realize the continuing sensation of burnout that comes with constantly chasing after society’s ideals of materialism, status and busyness.

I have found that a beautiful day somewhere outside with a friend and no cell service is the perfect way to combat that burnout.

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Even though nature has served the purpose of survival since the beginning of life, I think God has also given us nature for the pure purpose of enjoyment. I imagine him stretching His hand over everything He created and saying “just wait until you see this!

On Saturday I thanked God for eyes that could see the changing leaves and ears to hear the stillness. I also thanked Him for working lungs and burning legs and the beating sun because even though it was uncomfortable, it reminded me I’m alive.

To sum up my thoughts much more eloquently than I ever could, I’ll leave you with this most perfect poem:

I thank you God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spririts of trees,
and for the blue true dream of sky and for everything
which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings

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yes, it’s true

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“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

Frida Kahlo

 

Photo credit 

this too shall pass

I awoke this morning to the sounds of children shouting. It took me a good few seconds to conclude two things: it’s been a long time since I’ve actually heard the sounds of children playing outside (another post for another time), and oh yeah, it’s the first day of school.

Perhaps it’s my own denial that fall is upon us that has got me scratching my head as to how it’s already September and time for a new school year. Nevertheless, it’s here and although this is my second year not returning as a full-time teacher, I, too, must pry myself away from the lazy days of summer and get back into a regular routine.

As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and see all the posts about going back to school, I am filled with such a mix of emotions, I practically feel as if I’m reliving some of those first days of school.

Out of all the first days I’ve had as a student and as a teacher, the one that always stands out the most clearly is my first day of university in 2006.

I remember being too anxious to eat breakfast, crying as I sat in my academic advisor’s office trying to find out how to get into a class I couldn’t register for, feeling intimidated by all the people who had obviously signed up for all the same classes as their best friends, wishing I was back in my high school where I didn’t feel invisible and alone. I remember going back to a house that didn’t feel like home and going to bed at a ridiculously early hour because I just needed the day to be over.

And what I remember after that is that many of those feelings never truly went away during my five years I spent in university.

Every morning I awoke to a stomach full of butterflies (not the good kind.) Every paper I wrote, exam I took, performance I gave, all gave me such anxiety I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I said I would get through that semester and then that was it. I couldn’t do it anymore.

But I did do it, and it has shaped me in so many ways that I know now were necessary.

(Here’s a selfie I took during my first month in school. I laugh at it now, much like I laugh and cringe at all photos of myself pre- 2011, but I remember exactly how I was feeling at this time and, well, it looked like this.)IMG_5914

The following are five things that if I could, I would tell myself at this time eight years ago.

1. Your university years won’t be the best years of your life and that’s okay.

I remember being discouraged that I disliked university so much. There is such a common belief that these years are supposed to contain the best memories of your life, and I felt like I was failing because I just wanted to survive.

Every school day I prayed to just get through whatever I had to do that day and that I wouldn’t have a reason to run to the bathroom and cry. The other kids I saw in school seemed to thrive in the fishbowl that made me feel debilitated with fear. I wasted a lot of time feeling insecure and comparing myself to other people who were nothing like me, who were driven to excel in a program that I never really felt like I belonged in.

I would tell scared little 17-year-old me that not everyone fits into the student lifestyle, that there are so many other ways to be fulfilled and successful in life than to be a big fish in a little bowl and that it gets better.

2. You will not end up living on the street in a cardboard box.

Despite the fact that financially my life doesn’t look like I dreamed it would at the age of almost-26, I have never gone without.  Although I have resolved to play an active role in making my own career which means some financial sacrifice, I have always been provided for. The gigantic fear that I would never get a job after graduating was one that ate up a lot of unnecessary time I could have spent doing cool things like running marathons and writing poetry.

Just kidding, I still don’t do those things.

But I also don’t fear the Real World anymore.

3. Friendships sometimes have seasons.

Friends will come and go. University brought many friendships into my life that I believe existed during a time when I really needed them. There are people that I may not keep in touch with anymore, but they helped me get through a lot of tough times. People who encouraged me, gave me moments where I could forget about how miserable school was, made me laugh and gave me many good memories that bring me relief because they remind me it wasn’t all bad.

Life happens and I don’t think we’re meant to hold onto every friendship that develops in our lifetime, but I have a deep appreciation for the friends that stood with me during those tough years.

4. Experience is the best teacher.

Classes will not prepare you for what comes when you enter into the working world. What has helped me know myself and find fulfillment has been the experiences I went through as a result of pushing through something really hard. I have learned how to be a little kinder to myself when I fail, learned how to appreciate what makes me different. If university had felt easy to me, I think there are a lot of important lessons I would have either missed completely or been forced to learn later in my life.

I’m thankful I already know what I know now.

5. It doesn’t really matter.

I remember at one time saying out loud I probably wouldn’t sing again when I finished my music degree. That school had taken the joy out of singing, and I would never feel good enough to actually sing in public again.

Given the events of the past couple years, I know this to not be true. But at one time it felt true. So I would want myself to know that music will continue to fulfill me and bring me joy. You can’t take something so subjective as music and give it a grade. That bad mark I got on that singing jury in 2008? It has zero effect on my life today. It doesn’t really matter.

I guess I’d like to summarize with this:

This too shall pass.

All the good, all the bad, all the in-between, it will only happen once. Those experiences never have to be repeated. I am so much happier and braver and so much more okay with myself since finishing school, and while I pray that those entering university for the first time find themselves thriving, I hope they know it’s okay if they don’t.

Take the good with the bad, find people who love you and will help get you through the hard stuff, and be kind to yourself.

It’s not all bad. It gets better. This too shall pass.

N + S | Port au Port dream wedding


OKAY.

So this past weekend, I got to spend a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday in Port au Port, NL filming one of the very best weddings I’ve ever seen. I kid you not. This day was so perfect from start to finish.

Natalie and Steve were an absolute dream to work with. They were relaxed, up for anything (seriously, anything, including a little hike into the woods in their wedding attire) and so obviously in love. It was inspiring, and this video has got my creative tank so full right now.

I tried to capture the unspoken connection that you can see when Natalie and Steve look at each other. It’s incredible. They just radiate joy and light. I think this video will show that.

(We are all also anxiously awaiting the rest of the breathtaking photos from Jessica Buckle Photography. As if these guys could take a bad picture, even if they tried.)

I hope for 3 minutes today you forget whatever might be bothering you and see that love is alive in the world. And that weddings really don’t have to be serious occasions. At all. : )

Congratulations again, Natalie and Steve, and thank you for letting me be part of your amazing day!

on significance | Biola #2

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Things have been pretty quiet here on the blog for the past month. I can assure you it’s not due to a shortage of things happening. I can also assure you it’s been anything but quiet in my head.

In the wake of any significant event in my life, I can never seem to find the words that will transfer what I’m feeling from my head and heart onto paper (slash screen). Believe me, I have tried them out but they don’t feel quite right yet. Maybe they’ll never feel quite right.

Is it possible for something to be too significant for words?

Biola was an experience that moved me deeply. There are some stories that maybe sometime I’ll be able to write. Some of them I’ll share enthusiastically with friends and family over coffee, and some I’ll treasure in my own heart forever.

As much as I desperately want to find a way to share how I felt during my time in Biola, I think I can narrow much of it down to this:

The love I feel for these precious children is only a fraction of the love God has for all of His children. The way I see them is just a tiny glimmer of what God sees when He looks at all of us.

Every hug and interaction and moment of eye contact was an opportunity to show them how much they are loved, by God and by us.

I will never again underestimate the power of calling a child by name, of simply being available to them and reminding them how much they matter. I can tell you that a sense of significance changes lives, because we watched children leave as totally new children at the end of our three weeks together. That is the most incredible thing to witness and be a part of.

I clearly had just as much to learn in Biola as the kids did.

It’s hard to believe I’m back in rainy Corner Brook again already. I know I’ll continue to process everything in the days to come, but I’m already deeming this experience one of the richest I’ve ever had.

To Licia, to Geoff and Jill and Jean and Allie and Aubrey- thank you, I love you guys.

To every person who gave, prayed, supported me and Full Sail, and followed along with this journey, thank you. For being a part of something so rich and beautiful and most definitely significant.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:17-19

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This beautiful California state necklace (with the heart close to Biola <3) came from here. 

Photo cred: Emily Ralph

listen to this | sleeping at last


All this to say

our future is a blank page
that we chose to pour ourselves into
when God pressed play

and we’ll drag our pens
into these parallel lines,
to record and articulate
everything we find

as decades unlace
we’ll pause and carefully trace,
our shadows are puddles of ink
that our memory saves

layer by layer, the framework was formed
on an epic of paper
we breathe to explore,
fast-forward motion
will gracefully show
the flickering story
that all of our sketches unfold. 

All This To Say- Sleeping at Last

created for muchness | biola #1

It has been a wild two and a half weeks here in the golden state of California.

The sun has shone every single day I’ve been here ( all 18 of them). I continue to remind myself I don’t live here now. I am visiting.

(If a place is truly a home when you have people that feel like family, then Visalia is kind of home, because the Ludlows are already the relatives I’ll spend the rest of my life constantly waiting for the next reunion with.)

After a full week of preparation, we have spent 7 days driving an hour each way to the little town of Biola. A town whose children have wiggled their way into our hearts and thoughts and have already made us dread saying goodbye to them at the end of next week.

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It is amazing to spend time with these kids. As I observe and interact with them, the more I see and understand that kids are kids are kids. No matter where they come from, no matter who has or hasn’t spoken into their lives, no matter what material or emotional deficiencies they come to us with, there is a desire and a need to just be acknowledged.

Seen.

Known.

Loved.

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Before coming to California, my prayer was that my eyes and ears would be open for opportunities to love and care for the children I would work with.

Sometimes that looks like giving a hug to a child at the right moment, it might look like laughing at the not-that-funny joke. It might look like speaking words of encouragement and affirmation, or reminding them they are valued, or it might look like just playing or listening.

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The theme for To Biola With Love is “created for muchness”. If you’ve seen the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland, there’s a quote where the mad hatter asks Alice where her “muchness” has gone.

The truth we want to communicate is that we are all created with muchness in us by God. With purpose and for a purpose.

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

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How cool, that we have been able to join in on something that God has already started doing in this community through its children.

We don’t take the responsibility of speaking into their lives lightly, but we definitely take joy in it, and I wish everyone I know could spend a day in Biola.

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I wish you could be here so your heart could swell the way my heart swells when one of these little people gives me a hug.

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To hear how they constantly surprise us with the funny and profound things they say (sometimes in the same breath.)

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To see how these children, who have so little, have so much potential to do incredible things beyond what any of us can imagine.

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It will certainly be difficult to say goodbye when the time comes, but I am so grateful to God for the opportunity to experience how fearfully and so very, very wonderfully they have each been made.

With purpose, for a purpose.

Created for muchness.

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kindred spirits

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I will begin with this: I have arrived in California. It’s hotter than I ever thought hot could be. I’m still adjusting to the time difference, but I have never felt so at home in a new place so fast.

There’s lots to share, and I can’t wait to have the chance to share it all. But first, some photos leading up to my departure.

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Emily and I met in my third year of university. We became friends almost instantly, and since then, we’ve spent our friendship exchanging “me too!” and ” I KNOW”s.

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Since graduating, our time together has been sparse. I moved away from Newfoundland, and then back to Newfoundland, and Emily has been working for Disney Cruise Line, which has led her all over the world.

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Being able to line up a 24-hour visit with her in St. John’s before I left was an absolute blessing and I cherish that time together so much. I have often thought about the book Anne of Green Gables, and the way Anne speaks about kindred spirits.

“A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.”

That describes my friendship with Emily.

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When you’re the kind of person who constantly wonders if you’re secretly crazy, the best gift anyone can give you is the gift of “I get it and I get you”.

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Who knows when we’ll see each other again. (Hopefully in August on my return to NL!)

But like Anne also said:

“True friends are always together in spirit.”

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full and good and thankful

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Emma Peckford

To say life has been busy would be a grand understatement. Perhaps it could be more accurately described as a four-going-on-five-week-hustle. I’m exhausted, sleep-deprived, and either laughing at or crying over everything.

Leading up to last Wednesday, I was fighting anxiety and the thoughts in the back of my mind that told me perhaps my trip to California would not be funded. That perhaps this would be some sort of sign about whether I should go. I felt deep down that regardless of the fundraising outcome, I would go.

The unknowns just felt so heavy.

Part of my fundraising efforts was a coffee house that was held at my church. Corner Brookers were invited for an evening of coffee, so many delicious baked goods made with love by some of my dearest friends and family, and music. Oh, the music. How blessed is Corner Brook to have so much local talent per capita?
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Gary French 

Once the night began, my anxiety over getting things organized soon dissolved; the atmosphere in the room became so light and comforting and good. Seeing all the people in my life who came out to support me made my heart want to explode.

I had hoped to put a significant dent in the raised total with this fundraiser, but I never dared to dream that God would literally double the amount of donations I prayed for.
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That night when I got home, I did some basic math and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you there were tears when I realized that my $2500 goal had been practically reached. Within the same week, that goal was exceeded.  

There were tears and there are still tears because I was and am so honoured, so moved and humbled that I have such an incredible community of generous people supporting me and this outreach.
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It’s had me thinking all week how often I think I know how life is going to play out. And then God steps in with one giant swoop of  a “nope”.

“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.”

Isaiah 55:8 (MSG)

PTL for that.

To all the people who have helped me on my journey so far: thank you doesn’t quite cut it. I truly couldn’t be doing this without you.
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My life may be busier, more overwhelming and definitely more emotional than it has been in a long while, but it is full and it is good and for that, I am thankful.

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Even though I’ve reached my $2500 goal, To Biola With Love can still use further donations! The draw for this canvas print is still open, so anyone who donates $20 by June 23rd is eligible to win! Click the photo to go to the PayPal link. (You don’t need a PayPal account!)

(Photos by Jess Buckle)