A Weekend In Wisconsin

This past weekend takes the cake as one of the best of my life.

Friday morning, in one of my theology classes, in the midst of my friend Bethany’s presentation, my phone started ringing.

I quickly silenced it and responded to the caller– my friend Sheldon– that I was in class. His reply was quick and to the point:

Want to drive to Wisconsin?

Today.

To see Johnny’s soccer game.

I need an answer soon. I’m leaving at 4pm with or without you. 

My mind started racing. My heart leapt into my chest at the thought of seeing my boyfriend, who lives in Winnipeg, and plays varsity soccer through the states. Sheldon and I had been planning on seeing his nationals games in North Carolina, but it wasn’t guaranteed that Sheldon could get the time off work. And, being the most spontaneous person I’ve ever known, it was not surprising to me that Sheldon would text me with the thought of leaving for a 12 hour road trip the very same day.

All the reasons I couldn’t go

You have so much homework, You work tomorrow, You volunteer at church on Sunday

flooded my mind. I slipped into the bathroom to call Sheldon and tell him I needed to figure some things out. And ask him that, if I could get things taken care of, we could please leave after my classes, so at 7pm. He agreed.

The events of this weekend were grounds for me to witness some of the greatest compassion, selflessness, and love I could imagine from many of my friends.

One of these people was beautiful friend and co-worker, Brooke. I texted every employee at Pure, the restaurant I work at, to see if anyone was able to cover my Saturday shift, and no one was able. Brooke works harder than anyone I know, and she told me that she would absolutely work the shift if no one else was able to, even though it was her one day off. I didn’t want her to be the one to work it, and fought her on it, but she ended up insisting.

Brooke, if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to go on this incredible trip and support Johnny. I don’t want to say “I owe you–” I just want to show you love in the same way. Thank-you, a thousand times, thank-you.

I also received words of encouragement and approval from my incredible pastors and team of leaders at the church I go to, Risen City. They displayed grace, love, and understanding for the fact that I wouldn’t be there Sunday at the last minute– and also excited for Johnny and I to see each other!

And so, I packed my bags quickly before heading off to my evening class… where, even MORE last minute, Bethany decided to join, and Luke, our friend and Sheldon’s roommate, did, too.

With only a few bumps along the road (literally and figuratively), we embarked on our journey from Waterloo to Wisconsin, my heart fluttering with the thought of seeing my love, who I hadn’t seen in 2 and a half months, while he had no idea I was coming.

The four of us made for one of the most fun car rides of my life… except, of course, they would tell you that I slept most of the way there. Sheldon, bless his heart, drove for the entire trip on no sleep, from 8pm until 7am. We stopped only a couple of times, in between singing our lungs out, laughing our heads off, and, some of us, snoring quite peacefully. We couldn’t stop talking about how comfortable and close we all became so quickly and easily.

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5am rest stop shenanigans

I also have Jay, one of Johnny’s best friends and teammate, to thank for the fact that we made it to Wisconsin. He received my last minute messages with grace and excitement, and woke up early to make sure we arrived safely.

Sitting in a McDonald’s 8 minutes away from the hotel Johnny’s team was staying at, I couldn’t contain my excitement to just hold my man any longer.

“Can we just go guys?!” I bounced up and down like a little kid while my friends nommed their sausage breakfast sandwiches.

Jay let us know that Johnny was still asleep, unsurprisingly, but encouraged that we head to the hotel anyway. Jay met us in the front lobby where he noted, “We should just wake Johnny up. He wouldn’t want to waste any of the time he could have with you.”

So Jay walked me down a hallway to Johnny’s room, where, after some whispering, he knocked. And waited. And knocked again.

After a moment, a very sleepy, very bed-headed Johnny slowly opened the door sporting an unimpressed expression directed at Jay, until he saw me. His eyes widened, and he slowly said, “Whaaaaat?” 

I could barely contain my excitement and energy, and neither could Johnny. “Come here,” he said, and we thanked Jay before having a moment to ourselves. And then all the questions came.

We went after a few minutes to see Sheldon, Luke, and Bethany, who had graciously waited in the lobby so Johnny and I could have a private reunion. Johnny was, as I suspected, so excited and humbled by these amazing friends having shown so much care in order to take a weekend to make such a long trip.

We got to spend the morning all together just catching up and chilling before Johnny got ready with his team for the big game, the game that would decide whether the team would go to Nationals in South Carolina.

While Johnny spent time with the team, we took a quick trip for lunch in downtown Watertown, Wisconsin.

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We all reunited at the soccer field to watch Providence’s girls’ soccer team’s game, which they won in an intense and hard-fought match that went into overtime. Then, we got revved up to watch Johnny play.

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I can’t begin to put words to the pride and emotion I felt watching my man do so amazingly in what he loves. There is so much to say for the determination, passion, and love he has for this sport, that is the main reason he sought out his degree in Winnipeg. When we first started dating, soccer was just “soccer” to me. But I now have a love for it that comes directly from seeing the joy and passion Johnny has for it. Not to mention I have witnessed firsthand his skill in the sport grow tremendously since I’ve met him. He is the fastest, most technique-focused soccer players I’ve ever seen live. And I’m not being biased ;).

All this emotion and excitement made for an intense game. With so much pressure coming from both talented teams, the rivals scored one goal in the first half of the game. Not long after, though, the Pilots tied it up, ending the game in a tie that led to 2 ten minute periods of overtime, in which there was no score.

This led to an intense best of five shoot-out, in which Johnny’s team just barely lost.

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Walking over to Johnny at the end of the game made for a very emotional embrace. I just wanted to hold him forever, my Johnny, who looked so disappointed and defeated while still sporting a little smile, and overall amazing attitude. Thanking me for being there and just saying how grateful he was that I was able to be there.

Our goodbye was the shortest we’ve ever had, which made it difficult to process. Saying goodbye to Johnny always leaves me in a pool of tears that I always just want to be alone in. But, in the middle of nowhere 12 hours from home, I had no choice but to be surrounded by my three amazing friends in Sheldon, Bethany, and Luke… and this ended up being the biggest blessing.

We booked a cheap hotel, stocked up on snacks (dairy free ice cream only available in the States!) and basically crashed as soon as we got to our room.

I woke up the next morning incredibly disoriented. Had I really just seen Johnny? Was I dreaming? Where AM I? 

As it all slowly came back to me, the friends and I packed up and headed out for our long journey home. Continually, and throughout the whole day, the patience, fun-lovingness, and compassion of these three beautiful friends inspiring me.

From IHOP to Chipotle, THE CHICAGO BEEEEEAN and a beautiful patch of fall trees, our trip home was nothing short of incredibly eventful.

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And the drive home took us to about 3am, where I ended up on my doorstep realizing I’d left my keys in the coat I lent from Bethany that I had given back to her.

Yet another show of kindness the end the trip, I had no other choice but to call my roommates, and Mary answered her phone graciously and kindly, coming downstairs to open the front door for me.

This spontaneous trip taught me so many things that I will never forget.

Selflessness cannot be planned. Spontaneous sacrifice is real sacrifice. My friends sacrificed time, money, and their own agendas for Johnny, and to support him. This is a true and real kind of love.

Routine is no way to live. I’m a creature of habit, and get very comfortable in routines and timelines and plans. This very nearly prevented me from embarking upon one of the most beautiful little adventures of my life.

People should be celebrated. If it weren’t for Brooke and Sheldon, I would not have seen Johnny this past weekend, or likely ever seen him play varsity soccer.

Little acts of kindness that focus on the other are what it’s all about. A parking garage monitor reduced our parking cost significantly, just cuz. Sheldon bought a homeless man a donut and coffee in Chicago, just cuz. Jay got up at 6:30am to make sure we were safe. Brooke sacrificed her weekend plans so I could see Johnny. Sheldon drove with no sleep to make it all possible.

I have been so inspired to live in a way that serves others, as I know this is the way to serve Jesus, the ultimate completely selfless lover.

What a weekend, and what a God, who has blessed me with such incredible people as role models, friends, and my amazing boyfriend.

Until next time, Wisconsin!

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He Actually Does: Learning To Trust

He actually does fulfill His promises.

When a worry or fear creeps into your mind, how do you go about addressing that?

Sometimes, I find myself consumed by the worry. I recognize in myself a tendency to overanalyze the future, coping by trying to control the present.

But I have most definitely learned that I am not in control, and the One who is is, believe it or not, all-powerful and actually faithful to what He says He will be faithful to.

I can look at my own life and see God’s Hand of faithfulness. And so, if ever I get worry or worried, I can recall the many times God has provided and taught me, knowing that He uses struggles and trials for His good and as part of His purpose.

I was reminded of God’s faithfulness through one of my pastors and friend, Emily, during our breakfast date this morning.

Emily has many testimonies of Jesus’ faithfulness in her own life, and her speaking into my life gave me such hope that I needed to hear.

Mike and Emily are pastors at Risen City Church in downtown Kitchener.

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Coupled with a visit to my dear friends’ Beth and Jared’s first home together– beautiful and everything they’d dreamed of– I have been given opportunities to witness God’s faithfulness in the lives of those around me, too.

The question is not of whether God is faithful or sovereign or steadfast to His promises. The question is whether that Truth is one you are going to align yourself to and Him someone you live by.

From that decision, He just does. You will notice His promises and desire to pray for more recognition of His wisdom. You will grow in empathy and compassion through His Spirit. And this isn’t something I, Cassie, can promise. But it’s something the God of the universe can, and does.

Since making the decision to live my life for God, a decision God Himself led me to, many people have approached me about the “opportunities” that “seem” to constantly come my way; the encounters and healing I’ve had.

I in no way say this to boast, but rather boast in Christ alone. Without Him, these opportunities would have no meaning. Opportunities come to all of us through the world, but purposed by God, opportunities can be eternal ministries.

So as today I reflected on a lot of curiosity about the future, I am ultimately here, at rest, in the unknown: because God knows, and that’s all that matters.

For My Sister on Your Birthday

My Sweet, special sister,

18 never looked so beautiful.

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My sweet pea, you have such a fiercely loving heart. You have always had this beautiful compassion for people that translates to the way you interact with people.

I have watched you feel so deeply and love so boldly, and I love watching you blossom.

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Since the first time I saw you dance– really dance– about 3 years ago, I knew you were a shining star. Remember that fame has nothing to do with the gifts God has blessed you with. He’s going to use them whether your name is known or not. That has no bearing on the beautiful talents you have. I will always be your fan, and I will always cheer on your passions.

And your voice. Your speaking voice brings joy and smiles to so many faces, and your singing voice carries such depth and pure talent no one can deny. I am so proud of all of your hard work, determination, and persistence to do what you feel called to do.

Keep seeking that calling, and rest in the fact that you are so loved, so precious, and so called. I am forever your big sister, which is forever one of my favourite parts of who I get to be. Not because I’m a big sister– but because my little sister is one of the coolest people I’ve ever known.

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I love love love you with all my heart. You are in my prayers always.

Check out my amazing sister’s music! 

A Morning with my Best Friend

Morning. Not stupid early, but not late morning, it’s 8:30am and your eyelids open after a solid, undisturbed 8 hour sleep. You smile to yourself, feeling that euphoric, passionate, life-is-good-because-God-is-good emotion that translates to excitement to spend time with Jesus. You know He’s going to meet you where you are– which happens to be your little student bedroom in Waterloo, warm under the perfect duvet, that perfect warm that is practically impossible to crawl out of.

You roll over just far enough to grab your Bible, and open it to where you left off. Psalms.

Psalm 41. 

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;

the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
The Lord protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.

You spend enough time with Jesus to know that you are certainly not perfect at “regarding the weak,” but also to know that He has already forgiven you for it. He instructs you, though, and He makes you better. That simple time calling on His name and seeing His face, His very body, sitting on your bed, nowhere else to be but with you because that’s how much He loves you– whaaat— He tells you to lift your weary head and stop dwelling. He makes you aware of a coping mechanism that you go to when you’d be much better off turning to Him.

But that’s just it.

In the valleys He reminds you of His faithfulness.

If it weren’t for the coping mechanisms and failures and misgivings and faults, you wouldn’t know how much you need Him. That’s not to give any credit to the faults. No, it’s to weaken them, because it’s kind of sad to know that humans need them sometimes in order to know Him. 

But oh, there is grace. Oh, there is so much love. Oh, He is forever and always forgiving and unbudging. Oh, how this God Jesus just wants to befriend you, be above everything else in your life because He knows it’s what’s best for you.

He is, after all, your Father.

 

21st Birthday Reflections

On Wednesday, I turned 21 years old.

I am officially in the 20s.

And, while it doesn’t feel weird– I’m mostly surrounded by people in their mid-20s, and I feel I’m mature for my age– the milestone led me to a lot of reflecting.

Put honestly, I’d be lying if I said what I’m about to detail is every major reflection I’ve been having. While I’ve been quite honest in the space of this blog, and delved into some very personal things, I think it’s important to note that reflections of the human spirit and mind go much deeper– into the territory of thousands and thousands of words of reflection– than what I’m able to document in a single blog post.

That aside: 21 made me feel loved. 

It made me think back to age 8, when I was obsessed with Harry Potter, memorized monologues in my spare time, and read every book I could get my hands on.

Of age 11, when I found out I was allergic to dairy, started caring a lot more about what people thought of me, but still was a straight-A student.

Of age 14, when high school felt like the whole world, and I had my first secrets and truly deep-seated fears, and I still told everyone I was “going to be a pastor.”

Of age 16, when anorexia was my identity, when every day was spent in fog and trying to find any energy to move/live/be, when my thoughts were consumed with calories.

Of age 17, when I was kind-of-sort-of-better-cuz-I-was-eating-again-but-not-enough-and-measuring-everything-and-life-revolved-around-food, and parties were all that mattered, and alcohol became my new favourite way to live in excess, and in all-or-nothing.

Of age 18, when “pastor-school” was a reality, and I heard Jesus’ voice and His love, and nothing else mattered, and I knew there was freedom from my demons and that I wanted it because He did.

Of age 19, when freedom became a reality, and Joy like nothing else took over, and my life finally became less about me and more about others. When I truly gave Him my life and said “I’m walking with you, Jesus, no turning back.”

Of age 20, when I learned more just how I broken I am, just how much I need Him, and that, while I’m not perfect, He is. It’s all about Him.

Of age 21, when I’m learning how to rest, that my identity is in Him and not my actions, that there is grace, but that He loves me too much to leave me where I’m at.

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A birthday to remember spent with beautiful friends who know me too well, and gifted me thoughtful (and funny!) things that I cherish, but no gift better than that of their time.

I know what’s important in life and what I want it to be coloured by, and it’s knowing my God and His heart more each day, so that I can become more like Him for His glory and His people.

It’s a good 21st birthday. I’m so excited and so beyond blessed by where He’s placed me, and who He has called me to be.

And now, to add to reflections…

I’m reflecting on this deliiiiccious dinner.

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Greek Chicken Souvlaki 

Ingredients

(for one person)

4 oz chicken, chopped

1/4 red onion, sliced

1/4 bell pepper, sliced

2 tsps oil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp red wine vinegar

pinch each oregano and basil

1 tsp mustard

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp yogurt of choice

2 Tbsp garlic dill pickle, finely chopped

1/2 Tbsp of juice from pickle jar

Hummus, spinach, and bread, to serve

Method

  1. In medium bowl, place chicken. In separate, small dish, combine oil, garlic, lemon, vinegar, oregano and basil, mustard, and salt and pepper. Pour over chicken. Cover and refrigerate, at least 2 hours.
  2. Heat medium skillet over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and all marinade. Add bell pepper and onion to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
  3. In small bowl, mix yogurt, pickle, pickle juice, and salt and pepper.
  4. Serve chicken mixture with salad, hummus, bread, and yogurt mixture for the ultimate healthy, simple Greek souvlaki!

A Friend Like Brooke

I’ve done a couple posts like this before, in which I write about why “everyone deserves a friend like___.” Today, I’m talking about a friend like Brooke.

Brooke is one of my co-workers at Pure JBK, and has quickly become a close friend. From the day I started working at Pure, Brooke made me feel welcome and wanted. She invested in getting to know me, caring about me no matter how much stress work might have brought that day. She inspired me from day one in so many ways, from her work ethic and drive, to her creativity and “realness,” Brooke has passion for life and people.

And, more than anything, Brooke is someone I’ve always been able to be so real and raw with in both good and bad times. If I’m struggling, I know she is someone I can talk to so openly, and she has such compassion and loyalty for those in her life. She is so dedicated to whatever she takes on, and doesn’t take life too seriously.

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She recently moved to working at our second Pure location, and whenever I am at the first location, she is a favourite topic of conversation. She doesn’t see it, and is truly so humble, but people simply love her wherever she goes.

I appreciate her so much and the way she sacrifices her own agenda for the sake of other people. I am so grateful for her presence in my life, and all she’s taught me in the short time I’ve known her. Everyone deserves a friend like Brooke.

Infinite Jewellery: Your New Favourite Company

You know that just-about-to-leave-the-house feeling when you look in the mirror, take one last look at your outfit, and… it’s just not complete? Something’s missing?

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There’s an easy solution for those almost-perfect outfits. A piece of jewellery might be the exact finishing touch you’re looking for. For just a small investment, you can add multiple pieces of jewellery that will become accessory staples, enhancing the way you look and feel every day.

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And the woman behind the store couldn’t be more of a sweetheart. To know Kenya personally is to know a selfless, determined, hard-working lady whose heart is golden and whose eyes are fixed on her goals. The collection she has put together is one she has worked hard on, and is proud of.

The website, featuring easy-to-shop necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings, is user-friendly and incredibly aesthetic.

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And the prices are unbeatable, without sacrificing quality. Your orders will be delivered in a timely fashion, adorning your new pieces before you know it! Kenya’s products are classy, modern, and stylish.

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And by signing up for an Infinite account, you can begin collecting rewards for your purchases, with so many opportunities to save.

Infinite is the store that’s there for your every purchase, too. From thoughtful gift-giving– without have to guess at sizes!– to continually adding new pieces to compliment your wardrobe, these are pieces with infinite possibilities, infinite combinations… one place.