Even so, I’m not giving up on you…

Change the game...

I saw your post on Facebook.  The one where you were trying to get people to sign the petition  to “stop the immigration”.

Wow.  How do I respond to this?

Well, I guess I can say that I’m kind of glad it was you who sent it.   If it had been some stranger, I would have just dismissed it as the ravings of some redneck asshole.  Yup.  That’s how unkind I would have been.

Which doesn’t say good things about me.

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It’s OK not to be OK. Seriously, it is. (that means you too, my Christian famfam)

One of the things that gets brushed under the rug a lot in ministry is the hard stuff. If you’ve had a human life experience, you probably know what I’m talking about – it’s that painfully oozing wound right in the middle of your heart, infected with the awful shame of having the wound to begin with. It really, really, really sucks and it’s really, really, really hard to figure out how to put that giant gaping wound in front of other people without anybody showing you how to do it first. Technically there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to do it, but there are some ways that are so convoluted that they may as well not be happening (AKA the way I usually do it). Even then, it’s pretty hard to figure out because most people don’t actually know how to do it well, so whoever it is that is trying to show you how to do it is quite possibly doing a really weird job of it too, and the whole process just keeps getting awkwardly reproduced to varying results. We can share the hard stuff once it has passed (“I really used to struggle with *insert struggle* but after *x amount of time* I realized that *solution to the struggle* and now I’m free! #PTL y’all!”), but I know there are a lot of people out there who are just like me when it comes to exposing that big ol’ ugly oozer in our sad little hearts.

One of my most uncomfortable pet peeves is when my brothers and sisters in Christ look me dead in the eye, grab my hand reassuringly, and give me the terrible reassurance that “God wouldn’t give you more than you could handle!” This isn’t advice that I would give to anybody ever, and I really don’t think it’s anything that any Christian who has professed their need for Christ (hopefully all of us) should tell people.

  1. It puts the onus right back on us to “handle” the situation on our own. That’s crazy individualistic and lemme just say that we were not created to live our lives on our own. This whole extreme individualism is a relatively new creation and it’s a cultural value, not a biblical one.
  2. I think God would absolutely lead us into situations that we cannot personally handle (or let us walk into). If we could handle everything, we wouldn’t exactly need a God, now would we? If I didn’t actually need a saviour and a creator that was more powerful and amazing than all things ever created (by Him might I add), I would be living a very different life and you probably would be too. We totes mcgoats exist in a chain of creation that is far greater than us and to have the audacity to say that you as one single, independent, puny human being can “handle” it is to deeply misunderstand the ways in which we’re inextricably all tied together.
  3. We’re going to bend and break sometimes. That’s just a fact of life. We’ll go through times so good it feels like our hearts will burst with awesomeness, but we’ll also face some really terrible hardships that make us crumble into tiny little pieces of sadness.

Over the past few months I’ve developed a nasty little anxiety disorder and a mild depression that grip my heart and my mind in ways that I’ve never experienced before, and I have no idea how to share this with people in my life in a good way. It’s totally coming out bit by bit (like now) and I’m sharing it in the only ways I know how, but it’s very much overwhelming. I’ve always fought pretty hard to be “A-OK Alba” (JK nobody has ever called me that), but I’m finding that I’m really not OK sometimes and I’m coming to understand that that’s totally OK. For all the people who gave me that really terrible reassurance, there were those who gave me the hard truth that some things in life I can’t manage and that’s OK. A few times every day I get insanely dizzy and I have this insatiable need to escape from wherever I am, and sometimes it feels like an imminent doom is coming straight at me. When it happens it’s like my soul is banging pots and pans and scanning the whole world for a safe space to escape to, but the problem is that there is no physical place that can suffice. I really do have to run to God every single time and give Him everything in me every single time. This also includes sharing these terrifying panic attacks and awful feelings with my family, my church, and my friends. It’s really hard because I do actually want to do this on my own, and to a certain extent I do need to, but I also need to let my peeps catch me because my Abba God has shown me time and time and time again that I can and that they will… and it’s better that way.

I cannot even fully handle my own mind, how am I supposed to handle everything that comes at me in this world?! Answer: I’m not supposed to do it by myself. I am so blessed to have a supremely amazing group of lovely people supporting me in so many ways. Most days I’m totally fine and I’m in the process of getting back to normal (through a lot of different cognitive exercises), but I’m definitely not there yet.

As a campus missionary, I live life on the go and every 8 months I get to catch my breath for a period before it starts all over again. I see students teetering on the edge of breakdowns way too often because they feel like the weight of the universe is on their shoulders. So many times I’ve questioned myself and my eligibility to be in this line of work because my mental health really limits the amount that I can handle. I ask myself all the time if I can justify working with students day in and day out while I myself need help, and to be really honest I have to spend a lot of time in prayer + talking with people to remember that I’ve never been able to do it perfectly on my own to start off with. I’ve been here doing what God has asked me to do, but not through the absence of his presence and support and love and endless awesomeness. He is here, He was here before I was called to this vocation, and He will be here even after I’m lead somewhere else. Yes, I have something going on that makes it super clear to me right now that I’m very much fallible and kind of easily broken because of my sucky anxiety and mild depression, but in my humanity I have never been the perfect “okay-ness” that I thought I was. I have, and always will, need to lean on the Lord for support (however little or lot). I read through the psalms and I’m just like “wow, those are the words that my soul is shouting out.” I read about how Moses was like “uh… maybe you should ask my brother or somebody else instead of me?” and I’m just like “yeah, there has to be somebody more stable and good-to-go than me?” But look at how God actually used the psalmists and Moses. Look at how the bible is a collection of histories about people who weren’t actually totally OK all the time.

So this is a post for you, my fellow ministry peeps. People depend on us, but that’s all the more reason to throw everything we have down before God and shout, “Lord, help me!” with everything we have. We are not above needing help, and we don’t actually need to be perfect rocks. It’s totally OK not to be OK. The important thing is what we do with/in our not-okay-ness.

that time when anemic alba takes a real break

Possibly the realest life lesson I’m learning throughout the apprenticeship is that I seriously don’t know how to rest well. I’ve taken a sabbath on Saturdays almost all year, but it’s rarely legitimately restful because I tend to do other personal work or my general to-do list. Honestly, I thought that doing that kind of stuff was as restful as it gets but the joke is on me ’cause it most definitely was not hahaha!  This is like the problem that plagues our generation and I’m just one of the millions that takes too long to figure it all out.

Prior to the last conference in June (which was FANTASTIC, and I’ll blog about that later!), I got so confusingly ill like I’ve never felt before. I was exhausted all the time, dizzy, and slightly nauseous whenever I tried to eat food (which was rare in itself). Well, praise the LORD! ’cause two of my fabulous and loving co-workers took great care of me for a couple days while we were in Ontario and we found out that I was anemic.  It turns out being tired all the time is not normal, and I should have noticed wayyyy before it got as bad as it did haha!!

Since then, I’ve come home to most beautiful Saskatchewan to take a bit of a forced break. I got next to none of my many, many goals completed but it appears that I’ve taken a much needed break from life and so I get the feeling that God had a very different goal set than I did LOL. As an extrovert, I tend to have social plans for all hours of the day, every single day that I’m at home to make the most of my time so I can see all the people I love here! This time around, I’ve been resting at home about 80% of the time, and my rest time was pretty much just me ‘n Jesus. The first few days of forced resting are surprisingly hard. I have about 20 drafts for this blog and my newsletter, I attempted to read through multiple books, and I attempted to plan multiple huge hang out reunions. None of them were completed, and thank God for that! I ended up being too dizzy to get any work done and it’s only now that I’m starting to feel like my head is actually attached to my body [hence how I’m getting through this blog post], but I’m extremely thankful for this time away.

So if you take anything from my experience this time around, let it be that you should also take a break from life and to-do lists at some point because it’s fantastic (after the first couple stressful days). It’s like detoxing from a sugar addiction, and life is sweeter because of it.

The Summer of Conferences (AKA when Alba gets conflicted about being social)

I’m going to pull out my inner Jon Acuff here and say that one of the things that I’ve learned since starting as an apprentice is that Christians LOVE conferences and retreats. Seriously, more than any other group of people I’ve ever had the chance to interact with haha! All year you have church retreats, then club retreats, then womens’ retreats, mens’ retreats, staff retreats, leadership retreats, service team retreats, district conferences, topical conferences (worship, theology, sexuality, +more), occupational conferences, networking conferences, etc. If there’s a group of Christians that share any broad thing in common, there will definitely be a retreat and/or conference for it and it will happen at least once a year.

On one hand, it’s crazy cool that there’s so much community and camaraderie that goes on, and I seriously love how passionate people are. I love that people are so excited to share what God has been teaching them, and how everybody is delving into the journey that God is leading them through. It’s exciting to sit in a room with hundreds of people who seriously just want to worship the God of all creation, and to have speakers who can go into super depth on things you really, dearly, want/need to learn about.

On the other hand, it’s very scary. I’m an incredibly introverted extrovert so walking into a building where I know maybe 4 people out of 500  is a big and scary adventure. Once I get my bearings it’s so great, and I wander around making friends like it’s nobody’s business but until that happens I’m like a terrified animal in camo. We just had our district conference (BCYD PAOC) and I was having the most conflicted experience; simultaneously ecstatic about meeting everybody in the area and petrified by the amount of people who already knew each other and were many, many, many years into their profession.

Next weekend I’ll not only be attending History Maker in Chilliwack, but I’ll also be leading one of the breakout sessions!!! I’m leading one of the Real Talks on the topic of “Being Christ on Campus in Practical Ways.” I have no idea what to expect for numbers (it’s a pretty massive conference so even 2% would be a scary big number), and I have no idea how to communicate with people 12-19 years old in a fun way (I’ve always been an old soul), but I’ve walked the walk so now it’s time to talk the talk. God is asking me to take a giant leap out of my comfort zone and into the space he’s built so this is going to be an exciting/scary faith exercise. However this goes, it’s all in his hands and I’m going to trust that it will be what he needs it to be.

I would definitely appreciate your prayers and encouragements though. If you’ve ever thought about being Christ in your space, I would totes mcgoats love to hear what you’ve experienced, learned, taught, etc.! Send this gal a message, por favor!

the end of “the beginning” stage and the importance of review

Tonight marks the transition of my apprenticeship from the beginning stage to the middle stage. It’s was the very last official Monday Night Totem Girls’ Core and I’m actually a little bit emotional. These young women have been such a huge part of my year, and will forever hold a monumental place as my very first core (as an apprentice)! My amazing co-leader and I planned this beautiful night that would start with a short scavenger hunt, lead into an indoor picnic with solid review time, and end with us at the beach sending off a lantern and praying together. Now the weather report said it would be raining all day (no surprise, Vancouver) so we changed our plan to a basic indoor picnic but it ended up being a gorgeous and beautiful day in the end. We stayed inside, and it was really still beautiful. In typical UCM fashion, people rolled in late but still ready to go. After a couple months of shaky attendance going anywhere from 2 people to 8 it was really great to have almost the whole crew together. We had one girl missing, but I guess it just went with tradition anyways?

The main thing of the night was just hanging out and pulling questions out of a jar to answer. It was pretty basic, but hearing about everybody’s year really brought it all into perspective for me. Every week, I would go through the same-ish routine and while I get to see some people’s minds *click!* at a new idea or theological concept, it didn’t happen too often and there wasn’t a lot of signs of what was happening in each other their lives (faith-wise). Our questions tonight were basic, just things like “who really impacted your year?” and “what would you say to somebody coming in to their first year at UBC?” but the depth of responses that came through really blew me away. These girls had come so far since those first few nights of core!! It wasn’t just their bible knowledge that expanded, but their character and faith were so much stronger!!! I didn’t realize how much difference the compound effect of core would make over a years’ time, but I’m so happy that we did that review. It was a great reminder that even when things seem like they become mundane and routine in our lives, the discipline to keep pursuing them does yield results because the Lord is at work even when we’re not aware of it. Even the nights that people couldn’t attend had significance, as their return was in many cases a reminder and dedication to pursue a deeper relationship with God through our little discipleship community. I realized how much I had actually come to really love these girls through the year and our 2 hour studies together. As we wrote end of the year cards to each other, I looked around and I felt so blessed to have so many beautiful and open hearted sisters in Christ. I never understood it so well as this, but spending so much intentional time together really broke down my stiff walls about what friendship and mentorship should actually look like in practice, and I’ve come out on the other side with a renewed excitement and appreciation for the work that God has called me to. How blessed am I?!

I’m so sad to end the official chapter of this year’s core. It feels like just last month we were beginning the year together and awkwardly laughing at oddly timed jokes, and now we’ve reached the end I never want the awkward jokes to end! It definitely goes to show that with Jesus at the foundation, any random group of people can be family, eh?

Conflict: being in the world, but not of it

It’s been ages since I’ve last updated! January-February were crazy with retreats, events, new semester startup, etc. so in order to protect my sanity I cut down on everything that wasn’t absolutely essential. Now that everything has become slightly calmer, I can update again!

CONFLICT! Very few people enjoy it, and I am the kind of person that will do anything to avoid it. I’ll compromise until it hurts, or just run far, far away. I have intentionally lived my life with the least amount of conflict possible but I’ve recently learned that it isn’t good. While living away from conflict, I’ve consequently stepped away from a good number of significant opportunities to grow in faith (and share with others). So here’s the important message to take away from this:

Conflict is absolutely an important part of being a Christian. I specifically mean having inner conflict, because these are the moments when you need to choose not to be a part or product of “this world,” but rather to be set apart as a child of God. It’s inevitable that we will need to make choices every single day (probably multiple times) that will either prioritize Jesus or this world. We live in a world that actively hates Jesus so if we are never coming across situations that are forcing us to choose, than something is wrong/missing/being overlooked.

It could be anything:

  • do another hour of work or spend some time in prayer and read my bible?
  • decline a 3rd drink or keep drinking to fit in
  • tell a hurting friend about a hope in Jesus or stay silent and hope they’ll get there on their own
  • tithe 10% of your income or buy that iPad you’ve been eyeing

The conflict doesn’t have to a big giant issue – conflicts come in all shapes and sizes! Regardless of where we work, socialize, study, etc. we will guaranteed face a conflict at some point. What we do in those moments will speak volumes about our commitment, our relationship with God, and who exactly we know God to be. Has God brought me to this place, or have I earned this position out of my own merit? Will my friends think I’m ridiculously conservative or will I honor my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Am I ashamed to tell my friend that I believe there’s hope for her or do I think that the Lord has declared she’s worth the risk? Is all that I have a testament to God’s faithfulness or do I require more material good than what I already have?

ISIS, The 21, and Letting The Bible Speak For Itself

This blogger writes truth as the world mourns. Bless.

Josh Howerton

Yesterday, shortly after WG’s ended at The Bridge, news broke of ISIS releasing a video in which 21 Egyptian Christians – scornfully called “the people of the Cross” by the terrorists  – were marched to a secluded beach and savagely beheaded by men in black masks. After huddling our little family around the computer to talk about it, I was going to write a post. But sometimes a horror is so deep it’s best to place your hand over your mouth, unchain the Bible, and let it speak for itself…

Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  – John 16:2

Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God… They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  – Revelation 20:4

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life…

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