A Letter to Myself at Christmas

Dear self,

Be kind. Not just to others, but to yourself. You have been through a lot. You’ve started over with nothing more than a few times. You’ve moved to a new town, a new country, a new province, a new community more times that you’ve had birthdays. Still, you’ve managed to gain friends that love you as if you were their own blood. Turn your kindness inwards. Embrace your rough edges with love and trust that you’re not just doing okay but brilliantly.

Be brave. Remember what you’ve overcome. When those memories threaten to bring sorrow and rob you of your joy, remember the courage and sheer determination it took to liberate yourself. You did that. You are amazing. You said enough to toxic people and places. You knew when giving your last dollar would change a life. You stood your ground. You changed a life—more than once. You will continue to create space for those who need it. Take a breath and be brave.

Be patient. You remember how many times you helped that little girl with a lisp say snow over and over until it came out sounding less like a snake with a cold and more like a word? Treat yourself that way. No one achieves success overnight. What’s more, success isn’t even a static thing. It’s more of a mindset and a state of being. If you’re patient and focused you are already a success. You want to publish a book, write a page a day and eventually, you’ll get there.

Lastly, love fiercely. Hold fast to what you love. Never be ashamed of it. You love rainbows and unicorns, who cares if you’re 32 and wear cotton candy socks? You are passionate about human rights, the environment, animals, and LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church—all of those things are beautiful. All of those things are needed. You are not too much. Your heart is soft and full of love. The world needs more love.

Don’t shrink back.

Love,

Yourself.

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I’m 32 and also living paycheque to paycheque

I read an article today on #HuffingtonPost titled I’m 37 and living paycheck to paycheck. As I read, I realized how familiar the author’s story was. You see the pressure to go to events to support friends and loved ones is real—even more so during the holiday season. Many of us are just one or two unexpected expenses away from not making it.

This year we had to replace a furnace to the tune of 6000.00. (We DID get a rebate and it decreases our heating costs…but that’s a huge chunk of money that was supposed to be spent over time on other house related things.) Then, we chose to keep the cat that came with our house. This meant that he needed to see a vet pronto and get all his shots, that was 300 bucks…shortly after that appointment he required an emergency visit for dental issues and some other stuff. We decided to try and save him (to the tune of 1200.00). This all happened during a period of time where Olivia was indefinitely laid off from her long-term job and I went back to school for my final year. Our budget was tight! Then, Olivia found some work, but now it’s winter and she’s facing another potential lay off.

Due to the lay off over the summer, my minimum wage job just covered expenses and we were not able to save anything. This is the reality for most folks. What’s more is most folks don’t have the ability to put unexpected expenses on credit. We thankfully did, but now we have balances to pay each month on our already taxed budget.

Please know I’m not sharing this to whine, but for the folks who find themselves in a similar situation. We see you. You are not alone. If all you can do this Christmas season is to tell people how much you love them, please don’t feel guilty. AND if you’re hard up for food, reach out—there are plenty of resources available in Nanaimo where we live (and other communities if you’re not from here), and you can always come to our house for a modest dinner if you live close by. The challenge is to escape the shame of poverty. If so many of us are (or have been) in a similar situation, why are we reluctant to be honest and to access resources available to us?

This year when people ask what we want for Christmas we have two answers. First, we cheekily reply home depot or PetSmart gift cards (because the cat and the house are eating all our money). Second, for those who are closest to us, the reality is we need time with the people we love that has no financial cost…this can even include gas costs. We’d love to come to see you, but we can’t afford the gas bill—we need it to get to work.

When Thursday is a Monday

We’ve all been there before. Doing something that makes us sigh at our humanity. It keeps us humble and reminds us that sometimes we just don’t have it all together.

The holidays are a hard time for me. It’s dark out almost the whole say, thanks Canada. I am far away from my family that I haven’t seen in going on three years, even more than that for my brother–whom I’d like to say was my childhood best friend and I do not take that for granted. I don’t have the ability to be as generous as I would like to. My brain is exhausted from school and all the work I put in to be my best.

Needless to say when I pour the unground beans into the coffee filter making coffee this morning, I let out a sigh and almost cried. My exasperation was heard by my roommate on the other side of our modest apartment–and I poured the beans from the filter to the grinder and mumbled “I obviously need coffee more than I thought”.

I’ve lost the ambition to clean my house, because I don’t have the finances to host anyone. Showering and putting on pants today was my victory.

During this time of year, it’s easy to forget in all the fun and events those among us who have aching hearts. I miss my son whom was taken from me before his life got to start. I miss the mountains of my childhood, the children that call me auntie, and the familiarness of a place called home.

To cheer myself up, I started to think of all the things I am thankful for. I urge you to give it a try. Here’s my list:

  1. A Warm House– This might seem trivial. Lately, it’s been colder than normal on Canada’s West Coast. I have a warm house, with a warm bed, and a cupboard full of tea. There are many in Nanaimo who are trying to get by this winter on the street. They are literally freezing. I am thankful for enough support to remain housed and I’m thankful.
  2. My Roommate– Our friendship is deeper than that of most roommates. Part of it is that we are both followers of Jesus, but there’s more. We take care of one another. We allow space for brokenness as we both struggle through life with mental illness and trying to function in a world that isn’t kind to those who cannot work full-time and go to school. She blesses me more than anyone I’ve ever lived with, and in less than a year we’ve become family and I’m thankful.
  3. The LGBTQ+ Community– They accept my contradictory nature. I love Jesus; many of my rainbow friends have been deeply hurt in the name of Christ and I am no exception. Yet, they do not fault me for my faith. There is a deep respect in this family of misfits and I do not take it for granted. The group here in Nanaimo holds some of my greatest champions. They help me to get out of bed some days and give me an outlet for my creative side and I’m thankful.
  4. Young Adult’s Group– I attend a very open, accepting and loving Young Adult’s Group that is groundbreaking in their inclusion of myself as a LGBTQ+ person of faith. I’ve never been judged or limited in my ministry by them. The leaders of the group have endeavoured to create a safe place for me, including a no-tolerance of abuse mandate. I will never take for granted the bravery to stand with me when many church leaders do not and I’m thankful.
  5. Outreach– There are pastors and friends in the community whom build me up emotionally, spiritually and even financially. They’ve helped me through a very dark period of my faith journey. It would’ve been easy for me to give up on the church after some of the abusive actions toward me. These folks have reminded me that we are all human, we all fail at loving one another, but grace allows for a better way and I’m thankful.
  6. My Family– Though we are a total mess, though there are not many of us that are even speaking to one another, my mom and brother have helped me in this past year. It speaks to the healing that comes with maturing over time. We are there for one another as best as we can be and I’m thankful.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it sure takes the blow out of the silly humbling things I do each day. It reminds me to look forward and not dwell on the little tedious circumstances that threaten to steal my joy. What about you? What are you thankful for?

~Cheryl

Christmas Cheer

This is a year of firsts. The first Christmas I celebrate without plenty of children around. The first Christmas I am too far from home to surprise my family with either gifts or my presence. The first Christmas completely on my own.

I feel great! Like many single adults living far from home, I often find this time of year very lonely. God has blessed me with a change of perspective…maybe it’s just because 30 is the next birthday on the calendar, but I’d like to think it’s Jesus shaping my heart…in any case this year I am surrounded by love. Generous people are everywhere if we are willing to swallow our pride and admit we are alone. Letting others into my life gave me plenty of invitations for Christmas Day. I went from feeling like a burden or forgotten to having the privilege of choosing which events to attend!

I’m so excited to spend this time remembering Jesus with people who share His love and they do so in practical ways. Lonely people don’t really want a gift, though we appreciate them. What we really want is time. People who care to spend time with us during a season of togetherness. Who has God placed in your life that could use a little togetherness this year?