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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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. **

Dew Drop Diamonds

An Original Poem. 

bent intentionally
his head sways
dancing on the path his finger tips make

brass threads
known by memory
plucked to craft mosaics in a spider’s web

strong hands
build melodies of wood and steel

a voice rises to meet you
my soft soprano mingles there

tiny sparkling diamonds
dew drop crystals
adorn the spider’s carefully crafted web

memorizing and inviting
beautiful and dangerous

-January 4th, 2016.

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.

The Final Thought–A Walk through Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:25-32New International Version (NIV)

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29298A" data-link="(A)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29298B" data-link="(B)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> 26 “In your anger do not sin”<span class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NIV-29299a" data-link="[a]” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>[a]:<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29299C" data-link="(C)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29300D" data-link="(D)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29301E" data-link="(E)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> doing something useful with their own hands,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29301F" data-link="(F)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> that they may have something to share with those in need.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29301G" data-link="(G)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29302H" data-link="(H)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> but only what is helpful for building others up<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29302I" data-link="(I)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29303J" data-link="(J)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> with whom you were sealed<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29303K" data-link="(K)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> for the day of redemption.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29303L" data-link="(L)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>31 Get rid of<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29304M" data-link="(M)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29304N" data-link="(N)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29305O" data-link="(O)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Well loves, here it is. This is where the rubber meets the road. Paul has been leading us up to the ‘how to’ of living out our new identities. He gives us practical examples of how maturing believers should act and contrasts it with  the behaviour that’s associated with the old self–the one that died with Christ Romans 6:4 Ephesians 2:4-5 . 


What’s the point?

It’s important to note that the text does NOT say “do not be angry”, rather it says “in your anger do not sin”. I, myself, struggle with emotions–I like to avoid them at all costs, and being human; it’s rather difficult to say the least. They can be deceptive in their intensity, but at conversion, upon receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit–we are given a spirit of self control. I’ve been guilty of quenching that spirit in my life and most times it has lead to chaos.
When faced with intense emotions, in this case anger, we have a choice to feed it, flee from it, or face it. Feeding it only compounds the issues and is sinfully self centred. The most common emotions we feed are all relational: anger, ego, pity and passion/admiration. 

Anger: Someone ticks you off–it happens. If you’re like me at all, you play the situation over and over in your mind some days. Maybe you discuss it with friends and go over all the “oh I wish I would’ve said this” moments and “that person is such an idiot”. Slowly, you begin to harbour bitterness towards that person. You begin to distance yourself from them because you no longer trust that they won’t hurt you. In your words, thoughts and actions you sow the seeds of disunity within the relationship and within the body of Christ.


Ego: This is the sneakiest of emotions. I find it creeps up in my life when I begin to mock others for getting what I think they deserve as a result of their actions. I create in myself a mindset that I am somehow better than they are. Another sneaky way ego creeps in is through the puffing oneself up after an accomplishment. It’s okay to celebrate successes, but sometimes we remove the significance of the moment and put others at a distance by over sharing for the ego stroke that comes with a ‘good job’ and can eventually be trapped in a cycle of vain arrogance.

Pity: Ever do something wrong or foolish and kick yourself for years? Ya, me neither (sarcasm). In berating ourselves and diminishing our worth, what are we saying about Christ’s suffering on the Cross? Was His death as atonement for our sins not enough that we must continually beat ourselves emotionally over something that has already been paid for? How arrogant am I to underwrite the value that the God and Maker of the Universe has placed on my life!
Passion/Admiration: I’m going to camp here for a bit. As a single lady, I feel like I can lend some truth to this one. This is the hardest one and is very closely related to ego and pride. 
We like to feel good . Women, specifically, long to feel beautiful and desired. When someone pays us that kind of close attention (be it a romantic interest or not) we can choose to flee (which in some cases is right and good if you’re feeling temptations of a sexual nature). Sometimes we flee just to avoid dealing with the emotions that certain words and actions bring up in us. This avoidance leaves us trapped in emotional immaturity and quenches any real relationship. It keeps people at arm’s length preventing the type of deep connection that you crave in the first place.
Feeding this emotion can be very destructive. It’s intoxicating to be enjoyed–to feel like someone delights in knowing you. Much like anger being fed, feeding this emotion involves a fair bit of internal dialogue. In all the over thinking, over analyzing and over compensating–where is the Holy Spirit in your conversation with yourself? In case you ever find yourself wondering if anyone delights in you–I can say with absolute certainty the one that matters the most in this life certainly does! I challenge you to do a topical Bible study of your own looking up how the Father regards His children–of which you are one. Words like precious, delight, joy, rejoicing, love, esteem, protect, adopt, sing over….pop up all over the Old and New Testaments. God delights in you!
Facing it is the only way to put off the falsehood of the fleeing and the feeding. I’ve found the best way to do this is to acknowledge the emotion, sate the truth of the matter (and the lies), repent asking forgiveness for believing and dwelling in falsehood–and moving on.
MOVE ON. Don’t repeat the cycle by beating yourself up for learning moments. You’re human, you’re going to feel things and feel them deeply. And that is okay! It’s part of the beautiful way that God created you. The question is, what are you going to do about it? And whom are you going to turn to? Yourself, your friends, or the Source of Truth?