What I didn’t know was missing

Sitting, rather, laying on top of my patchwork quilt yesterday, I said, “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.”

I’ve always been an independent person. I was the strong-willed child that knew what she wanted, the edgy teen who didn’t take flack from anyone, and the travelling idealist looking for a place to put roots down—in her own time.

Over the past few years, I’ve begun to do just that. I’ve met more amazing people since moving to Vancouver Island than I was prepared for. I’ve had the privilege of working with non-profits and social justice warriors to invest in the community and better the lives of lose less fortunate. I went back to school to pursue my passion, became established in the local writing community, started working full-time for the first time ever, and have a strong support network.

I was happily single. Free for adventures, late night talks, random road trips, and content with it.

Then, I was happily single and crushing hard on someone.

For all my bravery, moving to other countries with my clothes on my back, coming out as bisexual in a Christian church (subsequently losing what felt like everything), and coming back from nothing countless times—it was the single most terrifying experience to put myself out there.

I’ve had a history of barking up the wrong tree. People are beautiful. In my life, I’ve known some rare gems. They don’t see their potential, their impact on others, or their sheer brilliance. As an observer with my heart on my sleeve, I notice those individuals with the capacity for great love right away. I sat on it for a long while. I thought, this will pass and then I can carry on with my plans of graduating and work towards publishing.

Then, my good frenemy tequila intervened and I sent that notorious drunk text. Now, thank GOD drunk Cheryl isn’t an idiot. I didn’t say anything regrettable. It was literal liquid courage. I told her that I liked her.

What happened between now and then can only be explained as a miracle. Like, finally all the good karma I’ve sown is coming back to me. I didn’t know I needed to feel safe like I am with her. I didn’t know that I needed to feel beautiful even when my hair is standing straight up and I’ve got last night’s glitter and camping dust stuck to my face. I didn’t know that I needed someone to hold my hand while my heart broke for the pain of a loved one.

It’s funny how you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.

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First Pride Parade Featuring Justin Trudeau

You read that title right. After weeks of horrid hateful acts against LGBTQ people and people of colour, my faith in humanity was restored. I had no idea what to expect. My only experience of Pride Celebrations came from TV, Movies and bigoted people talking about all the nudity and sex acts that occur at these events.

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First of all, I did not see a single naked person. I saw to bare bums from the back of a costume…but this was in an adult’s only beer garden that was completely fenced off and secluded from minors.

Secondly, I’ve never been in a crowd that large (700,000) people where no fights broke out. Every stereotype I had been taught by conservative religious people was broken for me. I went into the day’s events feeling insecure, like an imposter, and by the time I was heading home, I had danced with strangers covered in glitter like no one was watching.

My excuse for going over to Vancouver on the 6:20 am ferry from Nanaimo was a good one. I had been invited by our local Liberal Party of Canada representatives to march in the Pride Parade with Justin Trudeau. Now, I thought my chances of meeting Canada’s Prime IMG_1134Minister were beyond unlikely. In reality, we exchanged a brief but pleasant conversation and I was able to fulfill one of my friend’s dreams by getting a photo of them with their political hero. Justin came to the park the Liberals were gathering at early so he could meet and greet as many of us as possible before joining his family at the head of the parade.

 

 

As a group, we wandered through the entire parade…all the people lined up before the parade actually started…so he could meet all the marchers from the other groups as well. This is the leader of our country. Generous with his time. No one would have faulted him for getting escorted to the front of the line and leading us from there. But no, he walked through the crowd with his people, showing Canadians that no one is more important than them.IMG_1139

When asked about tolerance he replied, “We are way past tolerance. Today is about celebrating diversity and families and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.” I love him.

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No regrets for waking up at 4:30am and going to bed at 12:30am. I will always remember this day. I will always remember finally feeling free to be myself without worrying who might see, and I will always remember the Prime Minister of Canada looking at me saying thank you and wishing me a happy Pride.
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What Is Wrong With Me?

A 24 year old man once asked me if I was as discontent about being single as he was. He asked if there was something wrong with him. I paused, reflected on where I was 4.5 years ago and found myself being more wise than I actually am. Three things are true of people who see ‘all their friends’ getting engaged, married and starting families– 1)there’s nothing wrong with you, 2) you are blessed–not cursed and 3) you will find someone to share your journey.

1) There’s nothing wrong with you.
As 20 somethings (and any age really) we compare ourselves way too much. Really, how can we help it. Everything is a contest. We vote constantly on what’s hot and what’s not. We keep up with the latest trends, games, what’s making headlines on social media. We retake our selfies dozens of times, apply several filters and touch ups and add hashtags so people will give us a tonne of likes and validate our projected self image.
 The self image that we carefully crafted and borrowed from our favourite celebs and/or Pinterest pages. Add to that the pressure of watching most of your friends hitting milestones in their lives. They are purchasing homes, getting married, having babies and posting hundreds of photos a week about it all. All of your photos are selfies.
This is for a few reasons–firstly, you’re single. You do things on your own. Secondly, as a result of being single, you don’t get invited to the family friendly fun things. Your friends think that you’re out having adventures, when really, you’re watching Youtube videos at Starbucks wishing that you weren’t single.
It is not a deficit towards your character that you are single. In fact, take it as an opportunity to discover yourself without feeling the need to compromise (also known as faking) the things you enjoy in order to win favour with the object of your affection. What motivates you? What fills you up? What do you really enjoy? Do that. I mean, watch Netflix too, but DO something. Live YOUR life. Stop trying to live someone else’s life by looking at what they have and thinking you’re missing out because you don’t have it right now.
2) You are blessed–not cursed 

The best revelation of my 20’s as a single woman has been the freedom. Not that I don’t want to share my life with someone, nor do I hate children, but the freedom of a single person is vastly different to the freedom of a family. If I wake up tomorrow and want to go to Hawaii (just pretend I have money for that right now), I don’t have to discuss it with anyone other than work.  And even with that, though it would be REALLY irresponsible, I could call in sick (or quit) and pack a bag for three days, and just go swimming in Mexico or Australia. I could spend New Years in Paris if I wanted to without having to worry about paying a mortgage or saving for my kid’s college.
I have time to stay up too late at rock shows and eat terrible left overs for breakfast. I can choose to have wine instead of supper and eat french fries on the side. If I want to throw a dinner party that is a little risqué in theme (but not too risky , as I love Jesus), I don’t have to worry about what my significant other or their parents might think of me. I sink or sail my own ship for now.
On a slightly less introspective note, think of all the opportunities you have for impacting other people’s lives that you wouldn’t have if you were in a long term committed relationship. Commitments take time and investment. They are worth while. Yet, if you are both working full-time, and you have kids, you will have little time for anything else until you get over the baby/toddler stage.
Right now you can stop on the street and talk to homeless people for hours–maybe even take them for a hot meal because you alone dictate your schedule. You can choose to eat beans and rice for a month and donate the money you would’ve spent on fancy groceries to charity. You can chaperone youth trips, and go on short term missions trips instead of vacation–all of which are more trying for those in families. Let’s face it, we miss the people we love deeply when we are away from them for long periods of time…get some solo adventuring in while you’re free to do it!
 3) You will find someone to share your journey.

This last one is not a cliche. Though I know not everyone gets married, that is not the point. You WILL find someone to share your journey with, you just have to realize that sometimes they are NOT a love interest. I know, at the peak of loneliness that is not what a single person wants to hear. But, my best adventures were the ones that I took on my own to go and see a good friend. I was able to encourage them and feel the richness of love that they have for me. See, people who are in long term committed relationships have a lot more worries than the average single person.

Their life is united to another body, mind and soul–and that is a heavy and wonderful burden to carry. Often they feel that your love for them is extravagant when you take the time to adventure with them. Whether that adventure is taking them and their new baby to the swimming pool, or going on a ladies (or men’s) only camping trip. The person you share your journey with is likely to change between now and when you find your one true love. Don’t wait to enjoy the ride. Go make some memories.

** I’d like to add, if you would like to join my support network and help me in this journey of radical obedience http://www.gofundme.com/cherylfollandGCN follow this link to donate and share. Every little bit helps. **

Trying Something New

Well, you may have been wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been working on. I am currently in the middle of a Creative Writing degree. So I thought, maybe I should share some of what I’ve been working on. Here is a short story that I’ve just finished for my Fiction class. It’s outside of my wheelhouse, but fun and fresh. Hope you enjoy it!

Step On Me
People encounter, at one time or another, a situation that errs on the impossible side. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure, perhaps a visit to Sally’s Gym is just the cure. The lifespan of my people ranges anywhere from six months to five years; it really hinges on how our clients treat us. This is the story of how one client changed everything and saved my life.
            My role is to make champions of ordinary people. This is no easy task. Many of the people that I encounter throughout my day are so steeped in self-loathing they require a medal just for walking through the door. These are my favourite people, the ones who don’t know how amazing they are. See that man over there? Yea, that one. The one with the red shorts, the ‘do you even lift’ t-shirt and that crazy mop of curly brown hair? His name is Carlos. Looking at him, you’d never guess that he used to weigh three hundred pounds. This time last year, he could barely even bench eighty. Oh, look! A new lady. I wonder if she’ll choose me.
            “Thanks for coming in today!” Carlos said.
            Oh! I should mention, Carlos is the personal trainer on the floor today. The thing that sets our gym apart from all those other meathead type places is encouragement. Every staff member is a former fat kid. Every single one. Carlos used to sit in the basement playing World of Warcraft and eating Dominos pizza like he had a death wish. Heart disease you know. Anyway. Now look at him. Tall and lean with a healthy muscle tone. Complete transformation.
            “Why don’t you warm up,” Carlos said. “Start with a ten minute walk at a comfortable pace and I’ll pop back over to help with stretches.”
            “Us, sure.” said the woman. She grabbed her water bottle and towel and walked towards the treadmills. Noticing one nearest the exist wasn’t in use, she placed her water bottle in the cup holder, put the towel around her neck and pressed the start button.
            “Hello. Please select your workout,” read the screen.
            She pressed quick start and waited for the next prompting.
            “Great choice. So are those Lulu Lemons,” said the screen.
            “What?” She turned her head back towards Carlos. He was reading something off his clipboard at the front desk. No on else seemed to be caught off guard. “Is this some kind of prank?” she asked.
            “Nope.” This is my favourite part, when they find out about me. I imagine this is the first time something other than her smartphone has spoken to her. She will likely think she is crazy, or tired, or freak out and leave. This happed sometimes. I hope not with her, she has great potential. I better ask her some questions. “Please enter your weight.”
            “Maybe I’m just dreaming,” she said. Pressing the keypad, she entered her weight—two—two—three, enter. “Treadmills don’t have conversation skills.”
            “Thank you for entering your weight.” Now I will make things a little weird and see how she responds. My goodness this is fun! “My name is Stephanie, well it was step-on-me, but I didn’t think that very personable. What’s your name?”
            “Um,” she said. Leaning closer, she whispered, “Nancy.”
            “It’s okay Nancy. All the machines here are thought-enabled. No one thinks you’re crazy. You can relax. Your heart rate is getting high. This is supposed to only be a warm up after all.”
            Nancy let out a breath. “All the machines can talk?” Nancy said. “How come Carlos didn’t say anything about it?”
            “We only want a certain type of clientele. You know, the people who want to change but need the extra push. We are that extra push.”
            “Okay. So, what is it you actually do? I mean, aside from compliments, so far you’re just a treadmill. Right?”
            At this point, I had a choice to make. I can either tell her what Sally’s Gym does or I can ease her mind. Normally, we are encouraged to let the clients believe that we are artificial intelligence programmed to anticipate and respond to various inputs mimicking human reactions—the reality is much different. You see, I belong to the owners of this planet. Years ago when the human’s home was ruined by something they call global warming, they came out here. Finding this planet, with it’s perfect landscapes—but marred with crazy electrical storms—their scientists had to think of a solution to save their people. Discovering how to harness the electricity from the atmosphere led them to something even greater—my people.
            “I am not a treadmill,” I said.
            “You most certainly are. I am walking on you right now,” she replied.
            “To be accurate, I am merely a personality, a life force, occupying a treadmill.”
            “What? I am so confused,” Nancy said.
            “You have three minutes remaining in this workout. I will tell you as quickly as I can. Only you can decide what to do next.” I proceeded to tell Nancy about my people. I caught her up on the desolation that led to the sending of her people to my planet. Of course, she scoffed—electronics empowered by people?
            “You see it was the only compromise. By inhabiting the energy grid, the storms we used to live in are dissolved—allowing our two peoples to live together. These machines are a few of the ways we can actually interact. This facility, is one of a few, where we are testing whether we can bridge the gap, you know, enlighten people.” I said. I waited, with twenty-nice seconds left on her run, for a response.
            Nancy had no idea how to respond. She knew this was a colony and that pollution and consumerism had ruined her parent’s planet; but it never occurred to her that this one belonged to someone else. She finished her warm up and thought about the strange conversation while absently following Carlos through stretches. They moved to the cycles for some cardio. Nancy plugged her headphones in to the cycle display.
            “Hello again,” I said.
            “Stephanie, is that you?” Nancy said. “How did you get over here?
            “I told you, my people live in the electricity. I wanted to make sure you were okay after that information dump.”
            “Honestly, I feel like I’m in some weird dream. How can I know this is all real?” Nancy said.
            “I have an idea. See the smartphone port beside the heart rate monitor?” I said. “Plug your phone into the port and I will piggyback onto it. When you wake up tomorrow, and I am still there, you’ll know this is the truth.”
            “What then? I mean, after you come home with me?” Nancy said. “Won’t they notice you’re missing?”
            “Not if we’re very careful,” I said. “Put your phone into the port, when I create a message on your phone, tell Carlos the cycle is broken. He’ll think I’ve died.”
            “You still didn’t answer me. What then?” Nancy said.

            “Then the real adventure begins.” the phone read.

Original Works: Cheryl Folland, March 24, 2016. Nanaimo, Canada.

Following God in Faith

As I was wrestling with the clear impression to move to Vancouver Island last year, God again brought to my mind and heart the story of Abram—one that He has used repeatedly to guide me.


12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
 I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
12:1—The Lord called Abram. He did not give Abram specific details. But in His command there is a promise, “to the land I will show you”. God went before Abram, had a place already in mind for Abram and His family.
God has already told me where to go, he is going before me and setting all things up according to His plan. I simply must follow in faith.
12:2-4—God followed His command with a promise. We know this promise well, it is something we learn again and again and come back to. We use it to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness, and in Hebrews to remind us of Abraham’s faith.
God has called me, and He has given me a promise. My efforts in obedience will not be wasted. 
I was talking with a friend and I thought about walking blindly by faith. As I chewed on that thought, I realized that I never walk blindly if I am truly walking by faith. My gaze, when walking by faith, is ever on the Lord. As long as my eyes are on Him, and I am seeking His will and guidance, I am never walking blindly.
Think of driving without a map. You may not know exactly where you are, where you are going, or when you will arrive. But looking out the window, you can see ahead of you. You see the road signs, the weather, the scenery. You see the speed limits, the other travellers and around here the wildlife. You never truly drive blind. And if you do, maybe it’s time for new glasses?
12:5-7—So what then? Abram followed the Lord immediately. He took his wife, his nephew and his possession and began the journey. When the journey was not yet complete, he built and altar to the Lord and worshipped him.
I am amazed at Abram’s attitude and faith. At this point, what was Abram thankful and worshipful for?
He has just left his entire family behind, he left behind all that defined him, his livelihood, his home, his status, even his culture. He did all this at the command of God in return for a promise.
He is probably really smelly, sleeping with the animals, his wife is more than likely irritated with him for dragging her across the wilderness to the middle of nowhere. And yet, he pauses to worship and to remember God’s goodness to him.
The most common question I have been asked is “Why Vancouver Island?” and the simple answer is “Because the Lord commanded be to”. Is this answer enough? Looking at the life of Abram, the calling of the father of the nation of Israel, I would say yes, it is.
Then the question begs what does following look like?
Abram did not know the full scope of his journey. He knew the starting point, and he knew the ending point. The stops in-between departure and destination were at best vague.
I feel a little like that myself. I know that the starting point is University so far the stops in between have included Clearwater, Sexsmith, Grande Prairie, Kansas City, Missouri, Vietnam, Washington, DC, Cleveland, Ohio, McBride and many other places. I trust that the Lord is using this to refine me to the woman He needs me to be to effectively minister to the His people. And even more than that, to be willing to follow the Lord anywhere, is truly freedom indeed.

A good friend once asked me, “If Jesus pulled up beside you in a car, and offered to take you anywhere you wanted to go, what would you say?”
My initial response was “Who cares?! It’s Jesus. I would respond ‘Lord, take me to your favourite place.’”
Upon more reflection, I realized that Jesus is already taking me to his favourite place. In scripture we find Jesus with the lost, the poor, the broken and the needy. Here is that place, and the more I walk with my eyes on His, the clearer my calling becomes.
***Edited from a message I gave in 2013 regarding following God’s call.