Incredible Summer

Hey friends,

It’s been a busy summer! I firstly want to say thank you to everyone who stuck around to hear about my stories and keep in touch! It means a lot that you listen to me and send me encouraging messages.

The last time I wrote was in February, in the middle of a tough winter. For months after my move to Ottawa I was terribly homesick, and visiting home filled me so with many emotions that going back to Ottawa felt sorrowful each time. Distance from my family felt like part of my heart got stuck on home and the bus was stretching and tearing it away. But God has done some truly incredible things since then.

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First of all, winter ended, FINALLY. It’s been one of the hottest summers in a long time, and maybe that’s because my place doesn’t have, A/C… but it’s been toasty. I’ve spent the spring and summer going on tons of adventure walks with André, eating at new mom-and-pop restaurants, and experiencing some truly magical days.

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My parents came up for a weekend visit in May and we went for a walk through the Tulip festival. Talk about romantic, breathtaking, and beautiful! My heart was so full going on that double date together. I love my parents so much, so getting to show them around a couple gorgeous parts of the city was really enjoyable. I remember one evening it was raining and we put on a movie, squeezed the four of us to sit on my queen bed, and relaxed. It was probably the only time my apartment felt like a home.

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Then one of my best friends came up for Canada Day weekend, and we had some of the most meaningful talks I’ve had in a long time. My sister and her boyfriend were also visiting so a group of us explored the busy, exciting Byward Market and saw street performers, had a nice lunch at Dunn’s, and then sat in a huge field to watch the fireworks. Those were some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen in my life.

To top it off, my friend, André and I were pleasantly surprised that the park transformed into an EDM show! DJ Miss Shelton came on stage after Charlotte Cardin did her thing before the fireworks, and our sober little trio danced until the concert ended. André even put me up on his shoulders!

I’ll never forget that weekend.

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At the end of July, André and I decided to go to the Calypso Water Park! We had such a blast on a bunch of slides and in the wave pool and lazy river, and got a little sunburned too, despite our frequent sunblock application. That long day in the water was more than I could’ve asked for that day, but then it got even better.

When we got back from the park and went to dinner, the most magical moment happened. After a perfect date night, too beautiful to simplify in type-written words, he proposed. Moon high in the sky, water flowing under the bridge, strangers walking past with huge grins as they realized what was going on.

A ring was on my finger, the love of my life was in my arms, and I suddenly felt a wave of excited peace wash over me as tears of joy poured out of my eyes.

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Everything is falling into place in Ottawa. This move was the scariest, most unlikely thing I’ve ever done, and yet in less than a year, so many wonderful things have developed:

I’m full of gratitude towards the church members here who pray for me, and take an interest in my life and my family.

I’m grateful for the mentors who prepared André and I for such an important decision.

I’m grateful for our families and friends who provided the assurance that everything would work out in time.

I’m grateful for my roommates who make this apartment feel safe and comfortable.

And I’m grateful that I get to walk side by side with André for the rest of our lives, trusting God in all we do, and striving to love each other through His example. What a calling. What an honour and a privilege. What a blessing I do not deserve.

This is what always happens when we surrender to God. He gives us better things than we try to get by ourselves. He protects us when we stray and guides us back to the safety of His arms. He loves us even when we forget about Him and get distracted in superficial things.

And when we’re unsure of what is behind the next door, He surprises us with more grace than we deserve.

xx
Sarah

“Get Off Your Phone!”

What is it about mobile technology that has us so hypnotized? Friends meet up at restaurants and spend more time with their eyes on the screens, than each other. We may not be interested in what is happening around us, but it doesn’t send a good message. A friend caught me doing this exact same thing, and called me out for it, so now I’m going to break down why I think being on your phone while hanging out with your friends isn’t cool. (Also to help me stay accountable!)

Selfishness?

Out of boredom we might start going through our phones, not considering that it might be disrespectful to the people around us. Most of us don’t realize how often we do this until someone points it out, but it’s not a good habit to have especially when we’re in the presence of another person. In my own experience, I’ve been annoyed with seeing groups of friends or couples at a restaurant or coffee shop on their phones, totally disengaged from each other yet all seated together. It doesn’t make sense to venture out of our homes into our social circles only to consume ourselves in tiny, lonely, palm-sized, digital worlds that allow limited room for face-to-face communication. We’ve developed a terrible habit substituting real interaction with digital convenience. We all experience this distaste for how technology steals away the attention of the people we interact with, yet we all fall victim to the contagiousness of mobile technology.

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Communication Issues

Our obsession with mobile devices prevent us from building proper communication skills. While we spend the majority of our days occupied with the fascinations of a little device, we’re unable to interact with people the way we used to before the rise of technology. We even miss out on powerful real life experiences like music concerts and performances because we’re looking at them through our phones! I do it too and I think it’s insane!

We’ve also developed shorter attention spans and impatience. When a stranger sits beside us on the bus and says “good afternoon” we’re more annoyed they’ve distracted us from achieving a high score on Candy Crush, than interested in making friendly conversation. We’re so addicted to entertainment from mobile games and social media that we don’t get enough human interaction and intimacy. We’ve created a self-involved, self-modified digital life where we are in total control of what we choose to see and what we don’t. As a result, we forget how to show respect, listen, understand, relate, empathize and use our words wisely when interacting.

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Insecurity and Intimacy

I mentioned how our obsession with our phones prevent us from engaging in human interaction and intimacy. This is a serious and common problem. One thing I’ve observed is the secrecy the online world provides. When you have a password-protected mobile device or laptop, you can keep a lot of secrets. I’ve experienced this and my obliviousness to someone’s secret life, hidden under the veils of the Internet, cost me a lot of time and caused me a lot of hurt. Life online is not on open display. It’s so easy to delete a shameful conversation or revisit a coworker’s photographs on Facebook without getting found out. Secrecy is one of the leading causes of trust issues in relationships. And as if the threat of secrecy wasn’t enough, our constant use of our phones can build a wall between us and the people we love.

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When we’re at home watching a movie with our families and we’re browsing through our phones, our body language sends signals that we’re not interested in sharing the experience with our families. Similarly, when we’re on a date, the last thing we should do is whip out our phones to start a texting conversation with our friends. It’s disrespectful and it shows the person we’re with we’re not content with their company. Nothing is wrong with checking our phones, but constantly being glued to it really holds us back from experiencing intimate and special moments. In the end, we’re the ones missing out on life.

The Solution is Simple

Okay so we admit we’re a little too hooked on our phones, so what do we do about it? I say, let’s be deliberate about not allowing it to consume all our time. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions:

  • Delete the apps you’re obsessed with and take a break
  • Keep your phone in your purse or pocket when you’re out on a date
  • Turn your phone on silent and keep it away from your bed when you go to sleep
  • Leave your phone in another room during family time, especially at dinner
  • Make time each week to sit together and talk, instead of just being in the same space doing different things
  •  Once a month go on a “retreat” by abandoning your phone and spending the day in nature

Becoming aware of how often and why we idle away on our phones will keep us from getting too dependent on having it as an appendage.

After all, what’s more valuable? Quality time together is much more valuable than trying to escape a moment by diving into our phones.

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Active Love and a Renewed State of Mind

The one day this week that the train was on time, I got to the station late because of the snow. But this is why I just let God have His way: I made a new friend! Honestly, why hide yourself in a quiet zone when you can be open and share who you are with strangers? Why not show a genuine interest in the people you see on a daily basis and make new friends everywhere you go? Why ignore our nature to love and be loved, to comfort and inspire, to share and to listen?

I recently had a tragic and sudden loss in the family. On Friday January 31st at 7:10am my mom phoned me as I sat on the train. Crying, she told me granny Sylvia had passed away. Immediately I burst into tears over shock, confusion and desperation. A thousand thoughts ran through my brain…. How did this happen? Why now? We just saw her… I won’t see her again? It all came rushing down and out. It took a few days before I could really find understanding, acceptance and eventually peace. There’s a confidence in my heart of who she was and a reassurance of her return Home that makes this easier to deal with. Despite the immeasurable sadness of her not being in front of my eyes, or no longer hearing her voice or never again getting to holding her hand, there is a joy in my heart that where she is now in the Place where there is no more fear, pain, worry, depression or discomfort. How could I ever express the joy I feel when I imagine her with her biggest Love, her Lord: In His arms and reunited with loved ones, seeing more, feeling more and experiencing more? There is such comfort in that thought. It’s where she lived her whole life in pursuit of — where she always wanted to be.

Considering that and applying it to my life changes my perspective and inspires me to behave differently. Life is short so there is no logic or sense in keeping to yourself, being prideful and selfish, taking your blessings for granted, being unaware of how much you have, mistreating your family and friends, abusing the ones who love you, using people, hating people, complaining, being negative, “ranting,” fighting and arguing, going after what you want without any consideration for how it would affect others, the list will forever go on.

When I walked into work with tears in my eyes that Friday, I could see the sorrow and compassion my team had when they saw me, knowing what had just happened a few hours ago. Without caring about politically correctness or possible embarrassment or anything, one of my team members stood up, walked over, gave me a big hug, and told me “Go home to your family. You don’t need to be here right now.” I will never forget that compassionate gesture. The next few days my Facebook was flooded with kind words, sympathies, words of encouragement, prayers, and support from family who were sharing the same loss and friends who never met her. My family received cards, flowers, and phone calls offering comfort, and my whole church shared our sadness. I am forever grateful for this affection and that’s why I think it’s so important to be loving like that all the time.

There is only time to love, respect, share, learn, listen, honour, cherish, believe, CHANGE for the better, observe and be aware, be gentle, patient, kind, consider others as more valuable than yourself, look ahead but learn from your past so you don’t repeat the same mistakes… and so on.

From the moment I open my eyes in the morning I make the decision to thank God for letting me see another day, I kiss my parents “Good morning,” I fill my mind with positive thoughts and I head out to the day knowing that anything could happen that could shake me but I will never lose hope and I will always do my best to love actively. Not because I expect love in return and not because I want to be more popular. Only because I understand that every individual is valuable and because I know I am strong enough to be the person who doesn’t let the hardships of life turn me into a monster.

 

Trinidad: My Sweet Home. January 2014

Las Cuevas Beach, Trinidad

It’s been a gorgeous week so far in my home islands Trinidad & Tobago. Since January 2nd, my family and I have visited relatives and friends, had amazing reunions with delicious food, went swimming and best of all, had a beach day in Las Cuevas. The air is moist and cool with the ocean breeze drifting inward. Warm rain showers that fall daily bring life to all the lush plants and flowers around the country. This is truly a place like no other. Full of paradisiacal views, calming weather and cheerful island residents, Trinidad is the perfect place to return to to begin this new year in my life. I am so blessed to be able to spend 17 days in my birth country and I thank God for working everything out so my whole family could be here.

I bought a Canon Rebel t3i DSLR camera to capture moments from this vacation and temporary return home, so if you want to see why I am so in love with this place, check out my gallery HERE.

I’m full of so much joy right now!

Cheers everyone,

Sarah xoxo