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.

Let Me Tell You What I’m Bad At

Guys, I’m actually very bad at this whole Jesus thing.

This is something I’ve realized over the past two years and something that has shook me to the core.

If you knew me when I was younger, you might have thought I was a bit of a snob. Pride has always been a struggle for me and while what I believed in was good, the way I showed my beliefs was not.

I would look down on people, I would compare our sins and think, “Wow, I’m glad I’m not as bad as them, Jesus.” I would sit on my tall and mighty horse and point out everything others did wrong.

This is what pride does – it makes us think that we’re way better than we actually are.

I slowly and stubbornly realized how I had been acting and I actually had to start forcing myself to admit when I was wrong.

I wouldn’t just apologize either, I would quite literally force myself to say the words, “I was wrong.”

Through this quest for humility, I realized this important lesson – I suck at this whole Jesus thing.

I forget to pray about things, I often find myself pushing off spending time with Him and reading his word. There are times when I doubt and question and I screw up more than you know. I do things wrong every hour, if not every minute.

I’m not trying to glorify these things by any means – it’s wrong that things are this way. But I want to be 100% real with all y’all. I want you to know that I don’t have it all together and I want you to know that it’s okay to fall short.

This is why I’m so thankful for grace.

Because I am not perfect, I am desperately trying to be better but I will never be perfect. And grace says that I don’t have to be, grace says that it’s okay not to have it all together and that even if I mess up every second, I’ll be welcomed back with open arms. Grace says that I can’t do it but that’s okay because He did it for me.

Grace wins every time.

So real talk, I’m terrible at things I’m desperately trying to be good at and Jesus knows that. He still loves me any way and He loves you too.

To My People.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year.

Last year at this time, I was at camp getting ready for the hundreds of campers I was going to meet. I had just moved back to Canada and everything in my life was in transition.

A lot of new things happened in this year but the thing my mind keeps wandering back to is all the people I got to know.

I’ve met some incredible people.

I love meeting new people but it’s never been something that I was very good at. I’ve always been very shy and (something I also realized in the past two years) I always seem to attract people who take and take from me rather than give.

This year was different.

Guys, between camp, school and church, I can’t stress enough how many cool people I have in my life. Real, genuine, down to earth people who encourage and love me like Jesus does.

Jesus really knew what I needed this year. Moving away from my family was hard but it was made easier by the people He brought into my life.

We need people in our life who spur us on.

We need people who ask hard questions, who talk about real issues and who aren’t afraid to confront you when something is wrong.

We need people who teach us things – as hard as those lessons may be. We need people who leave and we need people who come so that we can learn and grow and develop who we are as a person.

Right now I’m sitting in bed and I am so happy. I feel so blessed that Jesus has given me the old and new friends and relationships he has this year.

This year was a real growing year for me and I think most of it is due to the people that are in my life.

So to my people,

Thank you, I love you and I’m better off because of you.

A Letter to the Man I Met at 2:30 am

To the man who came into Mr. Sub at 2:30 on Sunday morning,

Quite honestly, you disgust me.

I was mad at you at first for coming in so late when we were getting ready to close the store but that’s just because of how tired I was.

I was mad at you a second time when you swore every second word and when you slurred your words together because of how intoxicated you were – shouldn’t you be past that stage in your life by now? But maybe that’s just pride and unnecessary judgement.

I was mad at you a third time when you stayed after the store was closed but that’s just because I wanted to go home so I could crawl into bed.

But I think the fourth time I was mad at you – no furious with you – is completely justified. The fourth time, I wanted to scream at you, I wanted to hurt you and I was completely dumbfounded of how you could be so ignorant because the fourth time, my unlikely friend, was the time you made a rape joke.

As I stood there shocked, I remember thinking how grateful I was for Jesus’ love for you because it wan’t possible for me to love you in that moment.

I knew saying anything to you wouldn’t do any good because you were drunk and you wouldn’t have remembered what I said the next day anyway. So I’m writing this letter to you. You’ll probably never see it and that’s okay but here’s what I hope for you.

I hope one day you meet a rape victim. I hope you have to sit there and look at them as they cry and as they hurt.

I hope you see the pain in their eyes.

I hope you realize the magnitude of your words. I hope you realize that you really can’t just say whatever you want in this world because your words do have the potential to hurt someone.

I hope you look in that victim’s eyes and apologize for how ignorant you were. I hope you change, I hope you’re able to love people and I pray that you never hurt anyone yourself.

I’m sorry if this is too honest and if I shouldn’t be this angry but rape jokes are never funny and I can’t believe I have to say that in 2017.

From,

the girl who hopes you change.

When “What If” Threatens To Take Over

I live my life in fear of “what-ifs”. I’m sure this isn’t new to anyone, we all wonder about the “ifs” in our lives, and we are in constant fear of them too.

What if I get sick?

What if I get rejected?

What if I get hurt?

What if, what if, what if.

I’m realizing that continually worrying about these situations doesn’t make our lives any better. Worrying about “what ifs” doesn’t protect us from those scenarios, it just makes us more scared. Worrying about the next danger lurking in the shadows makes our lives harder, not easier. It makes it harder to live a full and abundant life and it makes it harder to serve Jesus whole-heartedly.

A majority of the time, I worry about getting some weird illness and sometimes that stops me from loving like I should. But I’m learning that it’s silly to worry because I’ve already been saved. Jesus saved me by His grace when he died on the cross and that isn’t just a one-time thing. He knows about those dangers I can so easily preoccupy myself with and he is going to keep saving me from them through his grace.

Its’ through his grace that I’ve never contracted a parasite when I’ve gone to a foreign country.

It’s through his grace that I’ve never gotten lice while being in such close contact with children who could have it.

It’s through his grace I got accepted into college.

It’s through his grace that I wake up every morning alive and healthy.

His grace isn’t just in the good things either, it’s in the bad just as much as the good. Without him saving me from things I perceived as “good,” I would be in some big trouble right now.

He loves us and he knows us and he’s going to keep saving us.

In light of all this, I’m gonna stop worrying about the “what if’s.”

There’s this quote from my favourite book that I love, it says, “He didn’t love people the way that Hallmarks says to love people, he loved them linebacker style, in a full contact way.”

That’s how I want to love and help people. Full on, without fear of anything that may happen to me because the truth is, when we can fully forget ourselves and our worries and love others first thinking about their needs above our own, beautiful, significant, life-changing things happen and that’s better than any “safe” life I could ever imagine for myself.

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Why I’ve Become To Hate Three Little Words

I’ve become to hate the words, “it’s not fair.” Before I became a missionary, I probably said them a lot – more times than I’d be able to count. But now that I see what’s really unjust, I realize that I never had any right to say those three words because I had it good.

(Some serious honesty is coming up so if you’re offended, I apologize in advance…)

In North America, we can be so dissatisfied with our lives. We think we deserve every single good thing, and when we don’t get it, it’s automatically unfair. Who’s to say we deserved those things in the first place?

But now as my sweet new friend is sitting beside me sobbing, as I drive by houses made out of tarps, and as I see kids starving, I’m realizing what is really unfair.

Not being wanted by your family is not fair.

Not having enough money to put lunch on the table is not fair.

Not having proper healthcare is not fair.

Not having clean drinking water is not fair.

These are just some of the things that are realities for many people in developing countries and while we’re in North America, sitting in our Lazy boys, complaining that we can’t reach the TV remote, these people are experiencing real unjust because they don’t have access to the basic necessities of life.

(Maybe this isn’t a reality for all North Americans but I know this was my reality before moving. I didn’t understand and I took everything I had for granted.)

It’s not fair that the things I listed above happen, but they do.

Maybe I won’t make a significant change in my lifetime. But I’m going to try, I’m going to keep doing things and pushing on. If I only change one life, so be it but maybe, if we all just do one thing, we could bring more justice to this world and make the lives of those whom we’re helping a little bit better, a little more fair.

 

Kind Of All Over The Place

It’s cold outside, the wind is blowing, the rain is falling and I don’t know why but I feel like this is the perfect weather for Good Friday. We’re sitting in plastic chairs, eating copious amounts of popcorn and watching The Passion. It’s the movie that chronicles Jesus’ death. I’ve never watched it before tonight but now, after seeing it, I wish I had watched it sooner.

I was never allowed to watch it when I was a little kid, it was too gory, and it showed too much. This wasn’t a bad thing; I probably wouldn’t let my young kids watch it either. It was an awful movie to watch, some of the scenes made me sick, I contemplated running to the bathroom a few times actually…

Maybe you don’t have to watch this gut-wrenching (but utterly true) movie but I do think knowing how Jesus died is important. You see Jesus could have died peacefully, maybe in his sleep, painless and easy but that wasn’t the case.

In order for us to fully grasp how much Jesus loved us and in order to fully understand the grace he has given us, his death had to be brutal. It had to be awful, he had to go through the worst pain imaginable, he had to be beaten beyond recognition; he had to die this way. If his death was peaceful, I don’t think it would mean as much. Watching the horrors he went through play out on a screen left me speechless and the only thing I could think was, “He went through that for me?”

Was he thinking of me as he was whipped?

Did he think of me when he was beaten?

I tried to put myself in his place, I tried desperately to try and imagine how I would feel if I was in Jesus’ position and honestly, I couldn’t. I don’t think I could do it, which makes his suffering all the more powerful.

He loved me as the whips tore his body apart.

He loved me when the crown of thorns was pushed into his head.

He loved me as the nails were driven through his hands and feet.

He loved me as he took his final breath and died.

The weight of that truth is more than I can bear and it brings me to tears because love like that is so powerful. Love like that makes me believe that I can do anything because he loves me. Love like that gives me a place and a purpose in this broken world. Love like that means I don’t have to die. Love like that makes me a beloved and chosen daughter.

This post is kind of all over the place but I like it that way for the same reason that Good Friday is my favourite day of the year. Good Friday makes me feel so many things, sadness, grief, joy, pain, excitement, but most of all it makes me feel loved and forgiven and made new.

My Jesus died today, that’s something I can never repay him for and the craziest part? He doesn’t want me to repay him because he knows there’s nothing I can do that would be sufficient, he just wants my heart and that is enough.