A Year Without Tat – a Little Bit Grayer

We really didn’t know what we wanted to do on this first anniversary. Quite frankly, it’s not one we ever wanted to have — but here we are. As we were trying to figure out what to do, I asked Tat’s friends — friends who have been contributing to Tat’s blog — to write a few thoughts reflecting on this past year of missing Tat. This post is the collective writings of a year without Tat. We hope you enjoy it!

………………..

SCOTT

One year ago I received the phone call that I just can’t shake.

Over and over again I hear Matt’s words. Tracy and I had just finished Spanish class when a message came up on Tracy’s phone, Hi Tracy, please call Matthew. There was a major crash x-xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Instantly, Tracy knew this was bad. I called a couple of times and finally got through to Matthew’s nurse, then Matthew. He was trying so hard to explain and give me as much of the details as he knew, but he couldn’t say it. After some avoidance (and I probably raised my voice a little), I asked him where Tat was. Silence — then “she’s gone”.

Over this past year, I played these words out over and over in my head. Every day I repeat this conversation. It’s still not real, this is not the normal order of things, your soon to be son-in-law is not supposed to make this call.  Parents then children not children then parents.

When I look back at this year I realized that I have learned much about the measurement of love this past year. You really do see the depth of the love you have for someone once they leave your presence. I used to think the toughest parenting experience — while serving cross-culturally — was sending your children off to university and then seeing them once a year or so.

I remember that day with Tat when she was leaving Peru for college. Tracy, Tat, the boys and I  were at the airport in Peru hugging and crying and smiling and just experiencing family love — but really how do we measure love? From experience, I can share with you that watching your young adult daughter leave and return to Canada for a 6-7 year education, will show you a depth of love you did not realize you had before. I was really struggling that day. As she walked into security and as we waved goodbye, God gave me an eternal perspective, during my pity party, thoughts popped into my head. I figured at my age, if God gave me 25 more years and I saw Tat once a year, I’d have that many times seeing her again. But then God reminded me of eternity. (Do a YouTube search for Francis Chan’s “rope illustration”. It’s a great visual — our time here is such a small — yet significant blink — in our journey.)IMG_2010

But — there’s always a but — there is a greater human measurement of love, the love you experience when you realize that you aren’t going to get those 25 visits, and eternity is the only option you have left — but you have to wait to get there.

In my imperfect, messed up mind I thought that I would be the one, waiting with Jesus, for her to come. My normal order of things was flipped upside down and for the first time in my life, I experienced the ultimate depth of parental love. You see, you can’t measure the complete depth of your love for someone when everything is somewhat normal. There is no gauge until the gauge is created — and then it becomes your reality.

Grief is a journey of love. It has so many facets and for everyone it’s different. For me, I need to see her and hear her. I have her photos on my watch and in my car and on my phone; I made a short playlist and I hear her voice every day; I watch her live videos and I create memories everyday. This is how I cope. You can say her name to me, you can ask me about her, you can share anything with her and about her and tag me in it. Just don’t suggest it’s “time to move on” or to “get over it”. These are the lies about grief — it doesn’t get easy.

We grieve because we love — why in the world would you want to “get over” or “move on” from loving your child? Last week I was reading a post from a friend, “and for those people who say “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle” I just gotta disagree… strongly. This is not a verse and Jesus never said this! He will give us way more than we can handle but He won’t give us more than He can handle. You see, He will allow things to happen. We may not like them or even agree with them, we may even get angry at Him for a period of time but they are His will and He is God. He knows we can’t handle the big things of life — and when they come we run to Him and He lovingly picks us up and knocks off some more of the bits of us that He needs us to get rid of, to shape us more into His image.

As I look back over this past year the one common theme I see is love. “Tat loved so well”. We have heard hundreds of stories of her love for others, so many we didn’t know about. She would be humbled to hear them, she would give you that quirky smile and look down, while in her head and out loud she would be praising God for what He did. She knew that it wasn’t her, it was God through her — she had this amazing way to allow God to use her, for His glory, to reach the people He brought into her circle of influence. When she was in the room everything was comfortable — it was like His spirit emanated through her and you instantly felt comfortable.

I remember her first visit back to Peru. Tracy and I were really struggling with a bunch of stuff with the home and life and we weren’t in a good place. We anticipated her visit for weeks. I tried to get everything done and working well so I could spend as much time with her as possible. When she walked through those airport doors it was like all our troubles were gone — she was here again in our presence! Have you experienced that about her? Tat’s here, we can breathe and everything will be alright.

I can only imagine what this day in my future will look like. I’ll live out my remaining years, loving through all the memories and these trigger days, then one day I’ll leave my earthly tent and open my eyes and see the Glory of Heaven and run into her arms again and everything in my world will be well again! Tat’s here, I can breathe again. The guilt will be gone, the pieces of the puzzle complete and new memories will begin as we worship our Lord together with hands raised high!

“and if not He is still good” – tat

Love you baby girl thank you for teaching me so much about love….

Dad

………………..

BETH

I’ve always kept a journal since I was a kid. It’s a learning experience when I go back and flip through the pages–seeing the joy, heartache, questions, laughing at myself and my silly ways, and the moments where I thought I had an understanding of the future and what my life would be. Some places are filled with pictures, doodles, notes, stickers, and in other places there are gaps–like when I was first planning my wedding, moving to Waterloo, or going to Bible college for my first year. There’s another gap in my journal that starts after August 17th, and if I’m honest I’m still not sure how to fill it. 

When I first got the news about Tat’s passing, I was writing in my journal by the lake in Muskoka. What’s crazy about the timing of writing this is that I’m in that exact spot now–writing in my journal, in Muskoka, looking out at the same lake and some of the same faces. It’s surreal how one moment that seems so familiar, normal, dependable — can also be tied to something so ugly like death and loss and grieving. 

What I wrote in my journal that evening on August 17th seems ironic at best. I wrote about faith. I wrote about miracles. I wrote about asking God to give you faith even when you’re afraid and don’t know what the future holds. When you’ve just gotten a call that your best friend is dead and there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it; reading back now, it feels like a joke.Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 14.36.58

“The unknown can be scary, but Jesus calls us to something greater than our fear. He calls us to faith. He calls us to do the next good thing.” 

I had no idea these would be the last words I wrote in that book when I got the call. I had no idea how I’d have to reread them and think of them in the context of my own grief. I had no idea that people that I knew and friends that I loved would have their lives turned upside down. I didn’t know that there was going to be a dress without a wedding. I didn’t know that I was going to say goodbye to someone who had become such a large part of my life. 

Grief is a lonely thing. A faithless thing, at times. An empty thing.

Life without Tat is scary. I can’t deny that every time my husband gets into a car, or when I say goodbye to my family–I wonder if it’s going to be the last time that I see them. It’s taught me that no person or thing should be taken for granted. That the small petty moments are not worth putting energy into. That life is not always about what’s next, or what’s bigger or better–it’s about the faces in front of me. It’s about right now. 

This is something that Tat did so well. When she spoke to you, she wanted to know you. She was always looking for what was real and true and right. I’ve never met someone who loved Jesus more genuinely. It’s easy to remember the best moments of someone who has died, but what I remember the most about Tat are the “come to Jesus moments”–the tearful nights, the conversations that maybe didn’t have a resolution. The questions that she had that were difficult and raw. How she responded when she was hurt. How she wanted to reflect Jesus even when it didn’t make sense or wasn’t easy. How much she bled for the least of these and the ones left behind.

When Tat died I felt like we all deserved a miracle. That this was a dream. That we were going to wake up and she was going to be here in the house on Toll Gate painting the walls with me. That’s when I realized that faith doesn’t always end with the rainbow or the seas parting or bread falling from the sky. If it did then it wouldn’t be so hard. It wouldn’t be feeling the fear of something and then having to do it anyway. It wouldn’t be something that stretches and teaches and molds and points us towards something bigger than we are. And yet, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the gaps that Tat has left behind. Every month, every holiday, every birthday or special day that passes without her in it is bittersweet. Grief doesn’t stop or end over time, it just changes and morphs as you learn how to accommodate it. I’m not thankful for Tat’s death, but I am thankful for her legacy and the moments I spent with her. I’m thankful for what grief has taught me. To be a little softer, more vulnerable, and to hold my people closer. 

Tat, I will celebrate your homecoming with lot’s of Taylor Swift, sunflowers, Tetley green tea and all the aloe plants I can get my hands on. I’m still trying to see the world with the same sense of adventure that you did. I was the crazy-wild friend, but you were the braver friend. And I miss you. I wish you were here to navigate our first years as wives together. I wish we got to graduate together like we’d planned. I wish I could call you like I used to and laugh and cry and feel heard in the same way. Tat, I think of you every day–and I’ll continue to hold onto the pieces of you that I still have. I love you. See you soon.

Your other brutally soft woman,

Beth

………………..

ABBIE

I struggled for a long time to write something that both adequately describes how I feel leading up to this day and honors Tat. Nothing felt or sounded right, and I couldn’t let myself think too hard about why I was writing this otherwise I would just cry and cry. If I’m being honest, there is no combination of words I could string together that would ever sound “right” because these circumstances are so, so wrong. But here we are, so I will do my best.

My dearest Tatiana,

It’s been one year since the accident. One year since you left. One year without you. The memory of this day still hurts just as much as it did one year ago, that terrible day.

Your absence is devastating. Not an hour goes by where I don’t think of you. Not a day goes by where I don’t cry for you. I didn’t think it was possible, but my heart breaks every day, all over again. I miss you so much it hurts. Sometimes the sadness is so suffocating, I can hardly breathe.

My dear sister, during the short life you lived here on this earth you reflected Jesus so well to me. Everything you did was for His glory and pointed others back to Him. You showed me love, acceptance, support, and hope like I’ve never experienced from another human being. Thank you for teaching me to live life to the fullest. Thank you for leading with a Christ-like example. Thank you for always reminding me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Thank you for being a constant source of love, joy and light in my life.

Your love for Jesus was unmistakable, and I know without a doubt in my heart that you have had the happiest, most peaceful year dancing in His presence. This year has been so hard without you, but I hold onto the hope I have in Christ which we share that I will see you again. I can’t wait to join you one day; it can’t come soon enough.67877756_1370364659778391_7166239047470284800_n

A piece of my heart is in heaven. I miss you so, my dear sister.

All my love, until we meet again… 

Abbie

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MOUNTAINSIDE CHURCH INTERNS

Some small thoughts from the Mountainside Church Interns of 2017, on who Tat is, and what this last year has held.

CHRIS

Tat showed a powerful presence of God wherever she was, whether it was at work, school or a simple blog post of her sharing who she is and what she is dealing with. 

AARON

I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that this was a mistake. It doesn’t feel right, and in fact, it isn’t right – death isn’t from God.

BEN

Sometimes it still doesn’t seem real, but then a random event makes you remember and you spend the entire day thinking about her.

JORGE

She always managed to find a way to breathe new life into the reality we knew, every moment, every second she made memorable. I can’t help but constantly feel a sense that there’s a place missing in reality that was designated to Tat, a way of loving, a way of joy and a way of friendship that only she could give back and I’ve missed being caught up in the beauty of it all. 

JULIA

To us, Tat was and is: a Best Bud, a safe girlfriend to confide in, a God and people-loving person, and a soul that radiated so much sunshine it was otherworldly. There is a hole so big in our lives that she left, and I know she’d want us to fill it with as much Jesus as possible. 67566486_371423207106573_4529414047266766848_n

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ALIZA

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
C.S. Lewis

Yesterday, we could say Tat was alive one year ago. Today, we can’t say that. I can hear our hearts breaking all over again.

Somehow it has been one whole year since she was last breathing in this world. The earth has orbited once again around the sun — and she was not here for any of it. Her wedding. Her birthday. Any ordinary Tuesday in between. 

Beautiful, bright-eyed, vibrant Tat — I miss her more than words can say. She always told me I was a writer, and yet there are not enough words in any language to explain the impact her absence keeps having. 

I still can’t believe she is gone. It feels as though I’m waiting for her to come home from a long trip, like those years ago when I waited for her to come back to Canada from Peru. I had a countdown on my phone — and it feels sort of like that, except there’s no date I can hold onto. I try to trick myself into believing that soon she will return, and we will laugh, and this whole cruel year will be over. It’s as if my mind isn’t quite convinced she’s truly gone. But then something happens and it hits me afresh. 

It might be a blog post she wrote, or her photo in my car, or a nightmare where I wake up crying. I read it or see it or have it, and then her death happens again.

She dies all over again, every single day. Every single time I remember. 

I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago in Prince Edward County and the actress on Gossip Girl who plays Vanessa was there. The actress said hi to me in the bathroom. Immediately, I went to text Tat. I couldn’t wait to tell her — she was going to freak out! I could picture the emojis she would send me, texting in ALL CAPS to ensure I understood her excitement. 

But before I pulled my phone from my bag, I remembered. I couldn’t text Tat about seeing Vanessa from Gossip Girl in a restaurant bathroom. I couldn’t text Tat again. 

The first time I met Tat, I knew there was something special about her. I’m not romanticizing her — I truly mean it. I’ve told her this before and I’ve told many others. I saw her, and something inside of me perked up. It was the Holy Spirit — kindly, gently, nudging me toward this kind 17-year-old girl. We were at camp. The first thing I noticed about her was how much I loved her name: Tat. It was simple and unique. One syllable, containing so much meaning. Names are important to me — but especially then, because I was in the middle of writing a novel. I remember thinking her name was perfect for a book. 

One night, I felt God prodding me to pour into Tat. That was the phrase I kept hearing: pour into her. A bit Christianese, but I took it seriously. I told God if He wanted me to truly love Tat — to encourage her, to pour into her, to pray for her, to check in on her, to care about her dreams and her family and her academics and her love life — then I would. But I asked God to give me a sign — if Tat asked me to pray for her that evening, then I would encourage her relentlessly. 

That night, Tat came up to me at campfire and said, “I feel like God wants you to pray for me.” 

Tears sprang into my eyes. I prayed for her — and I kept praying for years after that. 

I believed in Tat with a ferocity unlike one I’ve experienced before. I kindly forced her to send me her writing — she was such a good writer, and I always felt like someday I would hold her book in my hands. I am devastated to never read that book. 

I knew in the core of my being that she was going to do great things — and she did. Somehow, she still is. Her words, her spirit, and her love for people and for Jesus have undone me. She has carved a legacy without even realizing it. If only we could each have a fraction of her spirit. 

I am so grateful to God for the years He gifted me a friendship with Tat. A few nights ago, as I was crying thinking of her, I realized again the honour it was to love and be loved by her. 

I will always remember you, Tat. Your plaid shirt, your brown leather jacket, your long wild hair, your short bob when you chopped it off, your laugh, your voice when you sang Blank Space, your aloe vera plant, your black sandals, your nude heels you wore to church clacking down the hallway, your duct-taped car sitting in my parents driveway, your love of yellow heart emojis, and the way you always, always pointed me right back to Jesus. 

I miss you in a way I can’t comprehend and I wish I never had to write this. I love you, Tat. 

Love Aliza

………………..

CELESTE

I’ve spent a lot of time with Tat’s words this year. Her words bring comfort, wisdom, reminders, and tears.

I have a page in my journal where I’ve written down some of my favourite words of hers. This is one I go back to often:

Friend, you’re significant not because of what you’ve done or said or what you will do or say in the future. You’re significant simply because of who you are.

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This is my reminder from Tat when I read it. It puts me in check of who I am when I’m feeling low. And I believe Tat would want to remind you all that you matter. So, to anyone needing a reminder of who you are…

You are a son or a daughter of the King most high. God created you for a purpose. Even in the thickest of mud, He has a purpose for your life. He knows the plan and has it set in place. (Jeremiah 29:11) Do not give up on Him in the hard moments, in fact, do the opposite and lean further into Him. Lift Him up in praise and worship during the storms. You may not ever know the ‘what-if’s’ and ‘how’s’ and fear tends to attack the unseen and unknown, but focus in on the one who transcends ALL understanding and let Him fill you. (Philippians 4:7)

Tat, I hope you know the significance and purpose your life had and still carries to this day. My sweet girl, I miss you. I miss you so much. 

Celeste

………………..

ELIZABETH

Dearest Tat, It’s been a year without you now. 365 days. I cannot believe it. 2019 is a year that you’ve never known on this earth. I left the province for an internship a couple of weeks after you entered our eternal Home and that was so hard for me to do. What kept me sane during that transition was how excited you’d been for me in my new opportunity, seeing as you’d always had a strong passion for missions and reaching others. I’m thankful for that.

I’m not someone who’s always good at putting my own feelings and emotions into words. What I can say is that my heart feels both full and empty at the same time when I think about you. Full because I know where you are and that I’ll see you again and at that time, I’ll never have to say goodbye. And empty because the world seems dull and bland and a little less sunshiny without you in it.

My friendship with you was shorter than I’d have liked. I was friends with Matt first, and then began to get to know you through him, shortly before you’d started dating. I’ll always remember a time when I was hanging out with Matt between your friendship beginning and when you two began dating; I spent about half an hour just listening to him talk about how hard he’d fallen for you and how much he admired everything about you. How grateful I am to be friends with people who were closer friends with you than I — it feels as though part of my friendship with you lives on through my friendships with them.

When Billy Graham died in February of last year there was a quote that went viral: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now.” That makes me think of you. You’re more alive now than you ever were here — more alive than any of us are who’ve been left behind.67765631_1543989085738127_6931296592553050112_n

Your joy-filled spirit towards life and your unwavering love for Jesus and others have constantly inspired me — in your presence and in your absence. I aspire to live as fully, lovingly, and joyfully as you did. Meeting Jesus and being reunited with you will be such a great joy.

When looking for that Billy Graham quote in order to share it here, I found out that it’s actually a D. L. Moody quote, and it’s longer than was quoted as Billy Graham’s:

“Someday you will read in the papers, ‘D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.’ Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal — a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”

Until we meet again forever Tatiana… I’ll think of you and write about you often.

Elizabeth

………………..

DANIELLE

Dear Tat,

A year ago today you breathed your last earthly breath – and then your first heavenly breath. How a year has gone by is absolutely unfathomable. I remember August 17th, 2018 like it was just yesterday. Actually, it still feels so fresh that I would believe it happened only today. Sometimes when I’m standing in the place where I heard the news, I find myself breathing deeper. I replay the scene over and over again – being pulled from my job at camp, seeing Brianna’s tears and feeling like I couldn’t breathe, her parents telling me to sit down. And then, your very best friend – your strong, incredible best friend – uttered the words “there was a car accident, and Tat was killed”. She went on to say “I’m so sorry” to me, even though her own life had flipped upside down and half of her was missing. You picked a good BFF, Tat.

Over this past year, I haven’t been able to keep quiet about your story. It occupies so much space in my heart that it practically bleeds out of me. I want the world to know about you, Tatiana Blackburn. Not just about your passing, but about your passion. Not just about your death but your beautiful life. Your personality. Your soul. You are one of a kind. Talking about you is so hard, Tat – but so worth it. I once shared your story with a friend I had just met. I played her the song you and your fiancé Matt recorded – we cried together and she told me you must have been so special. I wish she could know the half of it.67709148_1370506736433224_8250983353616957440_n

A few weeks ago I was visiting camp where we’ve spent several summers together. One of the staff shouted across the parking lot “Is that Danielle?!” excitedly and started walking towards me. I couldn’t tell who it was from far away. She walked like you, Tat – and even though I knew it wasn’t you, it took my breath away. In that moment I came to realize that if it had been exactly a year ago from that day in July, it could have been you. You were alive on this earth on August 16th – and everything changed one short day later. This blows my mind.

When I think about the time we shared together I am overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s plan. Our time at camp, our time in Peru, our friendship – are some of my absolute favourite things in my life so far. Though I wish we had more time, I cannot deny God’s goodness when I think of the moments He handcrafted for us to share. Your friendship was such a gift, and I will cherish it my whole life.

When I found out about your accident, I felt terrified – not only because you were so dear to me, but I hated the idea of a world without Tat Blackburn. A girl with so much passion and zeal for life – so much love in her heart and so much joy in her soul. A girl who’s mission in life was to share the love of Christ in whatever way He called her. I kept thinking “how is the world going to continue on without her?”. I wanted to hide from the world that grew a little dimmer as you left it. Well, Tat – the world did continue on despite my begging it to pause for just a little while. It’s been a hard 365 days – and yet some of those days were full of goodness and richness. Grief and joy co-exist, and it’s beautiful and tragic. I see reminders of you everywhere – a new Taylor Swift song, a curly-haired woman, Sunday nights with the Mexican migrant workers, a toddler who shares your name, countless photos on the internet – everywhere. My heart breaks and rejoices simultaneously at each one. Life is so complex.

It’s hard to fathom that while we’re mourning the one year anniversary of your passing, you’re celebrating your one year anniversary with the lover of your soul, the maker of the universe. The place you’ve been longing for ever since you met Jesus. The place you knew was your true home. I miss you every day. I’ll be missing you until the day I arrive at home too.  I love you, dear friend.

Danielle

………………..

Why God,
Do people have to die?

A daughter or a son
Sudden and so young
Long before their time?

Why God,
Do people fall apart?
A promise and a ring
Becomes a broken thing
A road that got too hard?

I don’t understand,
But I understand…

Why God,
I need You
It’s, why God,
I run to Your arms
Over and over again

It’s, why God,
I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find,
You are right by my side

Why God
Do we feel so alone?
Every single day
Fighting through the pain
Hoping there is hope?

I don’t understand,
But I understand…

Why God,
I need You
It’s, why God,
I run to Your arms
Over and over again

It’s why God,
I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life

And I find,
You are right by my side,
Give me a faith stronger than I have

I need to know when it hurts this bad
That You hold my heart when it breaks

And I’m not alone in this place
That’s why God, I need You

Why God,
I run to Your arms
Over and over again

It’s, why God,
I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find,
You are right by my side

Always right by my side
Even here in the why… God

Austin French, Why God?
Listen Here

 

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Why God?

Hey, I’m Celeste and it’s an honour to be here! I had the absolute pleasure of calling Tat my friend. We met at Mountainside Church in Binbrook, Ontario where there’s a street called Magnificent Way. Tat fondly tweeted about that street once. (She adored the people at Mountainside and there is no doubt that the adoration was mutual).

tat

‘Why God?’ is a question I’ve found myself asking a lot more often over the past year. It’s usually followed by the different situations or feelings I find myself in, like why do I feel lost?… Why am I struggling?… Why did you need me to leave my comfort zone?… Why did you challenge me like this?… Why won’t any plans I make work out?… Why can’t I know the plans You have set for me?…

I ask God that last one often. Most recently when He decided He wanted to completely flip my life around and I did not understand why He would do that to me.

Out of all the things He could ask me to do, God tugged on my heart and asked me to leave my comfort zone, my community, my safe place. He asked me to move churches and I was TERRIFIED. My conversation (more accurately very one-sided questioning) with God went something like this:

God, why in the world do you need me to move from where I am comfortable and go to a church where I know no one and they don’t know me? Haven’t I been through enough this year?

This was in October of last year. I’ll spare you the details, but I want to tell you this: I’m so happy now. I have this incredible community around me and I’ve never felt more at home than I do where I am now.

If I could have fast forwarded and had the chance to see how His plan for this would play out, I wouldn’t have had any hesitation or doubt in my mind that God had a purpose and plan for me with this move. It’s so hard to not know what His plans look like for us when we’re here and the struggles of life seem to overwhelm us. We walk through the why’s daily – the list goes on and on.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God says He knows the plans He has for us…

I think that sometimes, to take us deeper in our faith, God places us in situations where we need to rely on Him completely to walk us through. He needs us to trust that He’s gotten us this far and will take us further. He tells us in His word that He goes before us, so shouldn’t that be enough to make us trust Him completely? Many times it seems unfair as we go through tough situations, that God’s being mean, but at the end of it, He really is taking us deeper into a beautiful relationship with Him.

Verse 11 goes on to say that the plans He has are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future.

It’s not easy to trust God in the why moments, I think we’ve all experienced this first hand time and time again. The best thing change has taught me is that God’s love, and the way He cares for me is constant. It’s the one thing I can always count on.

So friends, can we agree that we need to learn to seek Him even in our moments of struggle? There should be no doubt that He sees us, knows us, and is with us.

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Iron Hearts

Hi, I’m Julia, it’s a pleasure to meet you! I am honoured to be sharing some of my writing here on Tat’s blog. I knew Tat from being at Mountainside Church and meeting her was a very strange and wonderful moment in my life. It had to be God because I don’t see how else it could have happened. We had met briefly in that way that you meet someone just because you’re friends with people who run in the same circles. I was in awe of this girl who was younger than me but had already lived so much more life than most people I knew. I was enamored by her. In the following weeks after we first hung out, she became so incredibly transparent with a lot of things going on in her life. She spoke about things in a way that was so brutally honest, I hadn’t ever experienced this before with someone I felt like I barely knew – and that feeling of ‘barely knowing’ her was extremely short-lived. Tat taught me a lot about how to love women better, how to be a better friend, and how to navigate some bumpy patches with all the grace and love that we can manage at that point in our walks with Jesus.

The summer of 2017 Tat and I bonded over things like being the only 2 girls in the office, boy troubles, her deep love for her brothers and sisters in Peru, and having to pee way more than the boys (who like never had to pee for some reason?). Anyway, through Tat I got to meet some amazing people and experience some incredible things. One of those things was her friendship and friendship in general. When Scott originally brought up the idea of having guest writers I was so intimidated to be grouped in with these INSANELY talented women, and I think that’s when the idea of writing on navigating friendships came to mind.

In her honour, I want to talk a little bit about navigating these friendships into our 20’s and adulthood. Now, I am in no way an expert on this matter, I’m not claiming to have all the answers and there’s so much I have left to learn on just this topic alone. Which is why I also reached out to a few people to get their take on what friendships look like at this stage in our lives. Ultimately, I had to learn how to submit my friendships completely to God and I mean completely. Sometimes that meant I had to submit them in ways that made me feel uncomfortable. That I was living in a space of complete faith and trust in Him, and that God had already won this for me, and I just needed to be patient. Spoiler alert: I’m still working on this.

A mentor and very good friend of mine Laura, told me years ago that “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” (which I believe is originally a Jim Rohn quote). We took to her children’s whiteboard easel one night and listed my top 5 friends, listed one positive and one negative about each person, and she asked me if I was okay with these traits rubbing off on me. It was eye-opening. Check out Proverbs 13:20 as a good biblical reference for this kind of exercise too. I’ve continued to do this exercise over the years, and take it with a grain of salt of course, but it’s been a great tool for accountability.

“Iron sharpens Iron” Proverbs 27:17 is one of the most obvious scriptures we think of when someone mentions friendship, right? A lot of people I talked to mentioned investing in friendships that give as much as they take. Now, this isn’t always going to be equal. I can tell you my friends had to give a lot more to me in the time following August than I was giving back to them. But it’s like a pendulum, and there are times when I’m giving more than I’m getting, and that’s okay. As long as it’s a healthy balance. Another good thing to invest in are the “friends to your future, the ones who inspire you and who call out the best in you (thank you Emily L. for that gem!)”. These are the friends who call you out when you need it, and also speak life over you. They are invaluable.

Time management is another important factor because friendships are going to be harder to maintain when it’s not convenient. “Despite how busy you are you should always find time for those you care for” (from my girl Silar who has been living 1.5 hours away for the past 4 years). 1.5 hours doesn’t seem like much, but when it’s someone special, that distance feels so much worse. But we’ve made it work with short visits, and summers and coffee dates and texting constantly. Not having time is an excuse, and being ‘busy’ has become glorified. Be honest about what you’re capable of up front, and work within those parameters.

I also know that what works for me – an extrovert who could quite literally see my friends every day and still miss them, will not work for my girl Sam who is an introvert and needs her very valuable alone time to recharge. It’s important to respect those boundaries, respect each other, understand that you’re different people with different needs and create a safe dynamic that works for both and/or all people involved. There were a few times I just took Tat aside and had to offer clarity or ask for it on certain things, and every single time she was graceful and it only helped our friendship. It also helps that my love language is words – which is another thing I recommend! Find out your friends love languages (and Enneagram types!). I’m not kidding, it’s actually a lot of fun.

I feel like I could go on and on because friendships are so complicated especially today with social media and that very unhealthy culture of comparison vs reality, and I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface here. But ultimately, we’re called to community (1 John 1:7 & Matthew 18:20), to share each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and to love unconditionally (Proverbs 17:7), which could look very different depending on the situation, but that’s a conversation for another time. My friendship with Tat was in a lot of ways what propelled me to look further in on myself, to reevaluate what I deserved in my life, and if I was giving what others deserved out of a friendship with me. I am only a better friend because of our time together.

Tat and I

New Guest Bloggers

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Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

We have looked for ideas to keep Tat’s blog going since her account was transferred to us, after her homecoming last August. Last week I reached out to some friends of Tat’s with an idea to invite guest bloggers every three months or so to post a new blog. We now have a few friends of Tat’s who are excited to keep her blog going. We hope you all will like this new look as we want to keep her memory fresh through many different ways! If you are a blogger and you would like to join us please comment here and we will put you on the list of Tat’s guest bloggers!!

Love and hugs!

Scott and Tracy Blackburn

Seasons

Tatiana didn’t publish this blog draft, this was read at her celebration service by Aliza. We wanted to share it with you as we all search for meaning and purpose through the tough times of life. Scott and Tracy

For everything that happens in life – there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to collect the harvest. A time to kill, a time to heal, a time to tear down, a time to build up. A time to cry, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, a time to pile them up, a time for a warm embrace, a time for keeping your distance. A time to search, a time to give up as lost, a time to keep, a time to throw out. A time to tear apart, a time to bind together, a time to be quiet, a time to speak up. A time to love, a time to hate, a time to go to war, a time to make peace. {Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 The Voice} I never really understood this idea before. I hated difficult situations and everything that came along with them – pain, heartache, disappointment. The difficult situations I’ve faced, though not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme things, were agonizing and when I read this group of verses, I could never really figure out how there was supposed to be a “time” for those awful seasons. A time to die? A time to be torn down? A time to cry and to mourn? To me, that seemed so strange. If this was true, then that meant the hard times weren’t behind me. It meant there would be more time to cry, mourn and be torn down. It felt hopeless. How was I to live a full life if unpleasant situations were promised? As I questioned this, Jesus did his usual thing and revealed to me hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. He reminded me how he was faithful in all the times I thought I would be crushed. When that boy broke up with me, I grew closer to Jesus. When those friends abandoned me, I strengthened relationships with people who actually loved me. When I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, he showed me that I belong with him. When my heart broke for orphaned children, he provided me a way to help them. I’m still facing tough seasons in my life and they’re not getting any easier, but these times have taught me something huge; these times make us better. Difficult times don’t mean our life is over or that we can’t live a full life; difficult situations are the beginning of something beautiful. They could mean the beginning of a relationship, a new lesson or a new open door, but most importantly they could mean a stronger, deeper relationship with Jesus and I believe that is worth all the heartache we could ever face.

Some Wisdom I Do Have

Fun fact: I’ve fallen in love.

I know – it’s hard for me to believe as well. But here I am, going into the fifth month of a relationship and I am madly, hopelessly in love.

Again, I know – five months is not a long time when there are couples who have been married for 10, 25, 50 years. But I think we can take wisdom from any stage of life and so, in honor of the anniversary of five months with the love of my life, here are some things I’ve learned about being in a relationship.

1. The person you’re with shouldn’t be a necessity, they should be a desire.

This summer I wrote about wanting to be in a relationship but not wanting it to be my entire identity. I think I learned this concept a little too well. Honestly, at the end of the summer, I was completely content being single for the rest of my life and never being in a relationship. I didn’t think I needed a man to completely and frankly, I was right. I don’t need a man for me to be whole or successful. Getting to know Matt, though, changed my perspective on why I should date.

I didn’t need Matt, I still don’t need Matt. But I want Matt. I want to do life with him. I want to spend every day by his side. I want to be there on the tough days and the good days. I want to cry with him, laugh with him, fight with him and scream with him. I want to trust God with him but I am in no way dependant on him for my security, my identity or my relationship with God.

On my own, I am a perfectly capable person but we enjoy each other’s company and therefore we want to spend our lives together.

I think too many relationships have been ruined by codependency. When your entire foundation for your life becomes another person it’s no longer a desire to please the other person simply because you want them to be happy. It becomes solely about yourself because you can’t bear to live life without them and therefore selfishly don’t want to lose them.

2. Say you’re sorry first.

The pictures I post are deceiving. Believe it or not, Matt and I fight – shocking I know. But I think we’ve both decided that even when we fight, we don’t just want to stay mad at each other. We usually will say our passive aggressive comments, wait two minutes (sometimes three if I’m being stubborn), realize how dumb we are and apologize right away.

We’ve learned that fighting and staying mad at each other doesn’t actually solve anything. It’s better if we just talk about what hurt us, why things like that do hurt us and then kiss and make up. Why would I want to stay mad at my favourite person in the world? Why would I want to continually hurt them by holding a grudge?

I’ve learned to say sorry first because we can solve many more problems when we’re working together rather than when we’re working against each other.

3. Find a grace-filled person.

News flash: a relationship doesn’t magically fix all the problems you had when you were single. In fact, your issues are highlighted even more.

When looking for someone that could potentially be your forever, please make sure they are full of grace. This is the person that is going to see every. Single. Part. Of. You. They’ll know you at your darkest and at your brightest. If they can’t forgive you for little things, how can you expect to trust them with the massive sins you’ve committed in your life?

Matt (aside from Jesus, obvi) is the most grace-filled person I know. There hasn’t been a time where he has held something against me for long and because of that, I have been able to trust him with more and more parts of myself. Find someone like Matt who, no matter what you throw at them – whether it be a bad mood, tears, a confession, a sassy comment – will take each punch and turn around to forgive you and love you.

4. Figure out how they feel loved.

One of the first things Matt asked me after we started dating was how I felt loved and cared for. I asked him the same and since that day we have strived to love each other well; not in the way we think the other should feel loved but in ways that they personally feel love.

Sometimes this may take you out of your comfort zone and push you to act in ways that don’t come naturally to you but that’s what we’re meant to do for love, isn’t it?

This seems like a simple task but it is so, so important. Each person needs to be giving 100% in a relationship. We should be constantly trying to make our significant other feel loved, valued, and worthy and the second we stop trying, is the second that relationship starts to die. Never stop trying to love one another.

5. Talk to each other.

Again, seems simple. But this is the most important one. Go to the other when there are issues in the relationship. Please, please, whatever you do – do NOT rag on your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife to your friends. This is the most toxic thing you could do for a relationship.

If you have issues with one another – TALK

If you have issues with life – TALK

If you have issues with friends – TALK

If you have issues with yourself – TALK

That person is there to be your support system, your best friend, your confidant. Talk to them, let them into the deepest, most intimate part of you and let them help you. They want to (and if they don’t, that’s a different issue).

Along with this, never stop learning about them. Ask them about their childhood, learn about their friends and the drama that went down in 7th grade. Learn their favourite cooking show and what they like to do when they’re bored and hungry.

Life and relationships are a journey and a process. You’re going to fail time and time again but never stop giving grace, never stop learning about one another, and never stop loving each other.

And to the man who has changed my life completely – I love you, I love you, I love you. You’re the best thing.

In the Waiting

The more I get to know Jesus, the more I am astounded by his grace.

The past couple of weeks have been hard. I’ve had a week of vacation and that was wonderful and I feel like I’m normal again but boy, were those weeks hard to get through. I’ve cried more than I’d like to believe is possible, but through it all, Jesus has been faithful.

It’s interesting though, Jesus gives me affirmation and peace in many, many different ways.

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Three weeks ago, everything was too much. I couldn’t handle it anymore so I went to my room in true introvert fashion. I grabbed my Bible and journal with the full intent of reading and studying but instead, I just sobbed. I sat on my bed, wept, and cried out to Jesus.

I sat there for what felt like forever just crying into the shoulder of my Saviour and he just held me.

He was there with me, holding me as I cried. His arms around me reminding me that he sees me. He sees how hard I’m trying to do well. He sees my tears and my heart and my motivations and he affirmed me. I was alright that day after he held me for a little while.

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I am a firm believer that Jesus uses the people in my life to show me his grace.

He also gives me affirmation through other people. When I feel like I’m not enough or when I have thoughts that shame my own body, he sends people to randomly tell me I’m beautiful. He inspires friends to send me texts telling I’m doing well. He inspires my boyfriend to remind me that I am enough, that I am loved and then we pray together.

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I also have felt God’s grace through the music I listen to, the Bible verses I’m reading and what I’m learning in school.

It seems like what I’m struggling with the most is addressed in class I’m taking. My prof will say an offhand comment that has nothing to do with the lesson that builds me up without them even knowing it.

The Bible verses I’m memorizing come to my mind when I need their strength the most and I realize that I didn’t just pick a random Bible verse to learn.

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I don’t have all the answers and like I’ve said before, I don’t know how to stop pain or brokenness but these random thoughts are just here to say that if you’re struggling today or this week or this month or this year, Jesus sees you. You’re not invisible in your battle. He sees you and he knows you and he’s sending you encouragement. Just wait for him.

I’m Back

I’ve been gone for a long time.

I haven’t written anything but weekly assignment and essays since September. I usually blame it on not having enough time – being a full-time student, RA and having a part-time job will do that to you.

But I’ve been feeling antsy lately. I told a friend the other day that I’m starting to feel restless again.

The problem is I want to do things. It doesn’t have to be something massive and world-changing – I just want to do something. Write something, be someone, have something to leave behind.

Writing is the thing I want to do. I wrote a lot in the summer, mostly because I had at least five thousand crises but I wrote a lot. I even started writing a book and I loved it. I am in my element when I write like this. When I write about things I’m passionate about or even just spill my many, many emotions onto a page, I feel calmer.

I feel like I can survive.

I feel like I’m contributing something.

I feel at peace.

The problem became that I started comparing myself. I started looking at other blogs and accomplishments and began thinking that I wasn’t good enough. My book would never be published so why would I spend so much time on it? My blog would never get thousands of followers and be read all over the world so why bother? I’ll never be good enough to be paid for writing so what’s the point at all?

So, in an act of true bravery and dignity, I gave up.

I just stopped writing because I thought I wasn’t good enough and because I thought that there wouldn’t be a point to any of this if I was never going to good enough.

If I’m honest, I do this with a lot of situations in my life. I run away because I don’t think I can measure up. So instead of trying my best and giving it my all, I run because I won’t feel good about it unless I ultimately succeed. Failure isn’t an option even if I do my best because I would still fail and I hate even the idea of that.

I’m learning (surprise) that this isn’t actually a healthy way to live.

So I started asking myself, why do I do the things I do? I realized the answer was either because I know I’m good at these things or because people will think highly of me if I do them.

That, my friends, is very very bad.

I am so afraid of failure and having people look down on me that I’ll give up something I love in fear of failure. And I’m learning that if I do anything outside of doing it for the glory of Jesus, I am doing it for the wrong reasons.

If I write just for people to tell me I’m a good writer and to get a lot of views, I’m writing in vain.

If I write because I love it and because Jesus has given me the ability and desire to do so, then I’m doing it right.

It doesn’t matter if anyone ever reads my words or buys my work, it doesn’t matter if no one clicks on the link to this blog or if everyone if the world thinks I’m a terrible writer.

I write because I love it, because it heals me, because it’s a God-given desire.

So I’m back. And I’m gonna keep writing and writing and writing, even if 0 people read these words, I’m gonna keep writing.

Here’s What I Want You To Know Today.

You’re not alone. If there’s one thing I want you to know in this moment it’s that you’re not alone.

I’ve been struggling this week and I guess for the whole summer with feelings of inadequacy, feelings of not being good enough and feelings of not being forgivable.

So I want you to know that you’re not alone in these feelings cause I feel them too, every second.

Here’s another thing I want you to know; that voice that’s telling you you’re not good enough, that you can’t receive grace, that you could never be forgiven – that’s a lie sent straight from the pit of hell.

satan wants you to be discouraged. satan doesn’t want you to receive Jesus’ love, grace and forgiveness because he knows that if you do, you’ll fall in love with Jesus and never get back up again. satan wants you to fail, satan wants you to believe that you are a terrible, disgusting piece of human life who has no worth and who Jesus doesn’t give a second look at so he lies.

He lies and he tells you that you’re not worthy.

He lies and says that Jesus could never forgive you for going to that dark place you were in.

He lies and tells you that there’s no way Jesus could even get you out of that dark place you’re in.

He lies and tells you that you’re not good enough.

He lies and tells you that you could never change.

He lies and tells you that Jesus doesn’t love you.

But, my love, that’s all they are – lies. satan’s words have no authority here because while satan is lying to you, Jesus is whispering truth into your heart.

Jesus hugs you and tells you that you are a worthy child of His.

Jesus says you’re already forgiven.

Jesus comes alongside you and brings light into your darkness. He tells you that He left the 99 others to go out and find you.

He smiles at you and says you’re more than enough.

He picks you up and tells you over and over again, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Jesus is with you, He loves you and He’ll never let you go. Today, I hope you know that.

When You Question Your Worth

     About 3 years ago, I bookmarked one of my favourite blog posts to my browser so that I could go back to it whenever I needed it.
     I need it often.
     It’s a blog post about worth and worth is something I question almost daily. I’m sure you do too.
     When did questioning start for you? Did someone hurt you when you were young? Did a boyfriend or girlfriend or best friend break your heart somewhere along the line? Did someone act as if they didn’t care? Did someone tell you that you had to be better or speak smarter or do more? Did you start comparing yourself to those who seemed to have it all together? Did someone tell you that you weren’t enough?

I’m over on my friend, Beth’s blog today.

Join me there!