Embracing Change… Mourning, Too

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Psalm 118:24

Lord, I will rejoice and be glad in YOUR day, no matter what it brings.

Today I woke up extra early to spend some time with Jesus and reading the Bible before getting ready for a training shift at my new job!

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I have always wanted to work at a local, privately owned coffee shop– and particularly this one. I have admired its versatile menus, coffee offerings, and atmosphere for several years, amazed by the work it must have taken its owner to put together. And, now knowing her, I already feel blessed by this passionate, glowing woman who cares for this store and all her customers, is passionate about “healthy” food and brownies alike, and loves serving downtown Kitchener local food and coffee.

The first shift went well, and I am so grateful for my Starbucks experience that helped me to learn quickly and efficiently, allowing me to focus on customers without feeling frazzled. I cannot say enough good things about Starbucks, and the amazing job that it is.

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After this exciting shift, I ventured to a different Starbucks to meet Pastor Nat to go over some important things regarding Youth and Young Adults. I am the youth ministry intern at a church in Waterloo called Creekside, and Nat has been the pastor I’ve been shadowing the past year. I also cannot say enough good things about Nat. And today, what was supposed to be a “work meeting” turned into an incredible conversation about Jesus, pastoring, and some theological sort of stuff. Nat has become a bit of a mentor for me, and I so admire his humble, compassionate spirit after Jesus.

After this meeting, I did a bit of shopping…

I mean, I was right next to the mall…

😉

Many of my friends will tell you I’m the best “saver” they know, and recently I’ve been thinking a lot about just how blessed I am… and how much I sort of “hoard” money. By no means am I saying saving is bad thing– or that I should be spending more on myself. But that I have a lot to give; of myself and gifting that Jesus wants to use, yes, but also tangibly in money. And I save strategically in order to give back, because all money is God’s money and for His purposes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t buy myself a pair of pants every once in a while!
And so I excitedly expanded my wardrobe just a little bit today for the first time in a while with some new capris and shorts.

One of the highlights of my day was a lovely phone call with my mom, where I told her about my new job. My mom is so lovely, so congratulatory and expressing her pride in me so emphatically. I love her so much, and just hearing her voice made me so joyful.

Colouring much of my day was EXCITEMENT in that my JOHNNY is home in like three days for the whole summer. So much is changing– getting used to two new jobs and no classes, plus my wonderful boyfriend here– but it’s all so good and excited, and I’m rejoicing in all that GOD is doing and grasping for Him moment by moment. Your will be done in this job, in my relationships, in my every second, my Jesus. 

The hardest change by far will be Maddie and Autumn moving out of our house. While Beth, Mary, and I are staying together for the summer in our little apartment, Maddie and Autumn are working from their homes. We will still see them loads, but our house is truly a beautiful little family of the most rare kind. I will NEVER forget this amazing year with four girls who I look up to in different ways, and love with all my heart. But the Lord is doing new things, and they will always be some of my best friends.

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Tonight has been full of cleaning, a great trip to the gym, catching up on writing work for LeadManaging, the company I’m curating blog content for, amazing conversations and laughs with my roomies, and trying to savour every moment and give it to Jesus. He is so good, and I pray that my days only flow more in His Spirit.

Jesus, I know you’re all I want when I turn to ______ instead. I know YOU’RE all I need when I think I want something else. I know You’re the answer, the source, the Beginning and the End. May my days glorify You, my life be an outpouring of Your Spirit, and Your Spirit fall afresh in every new thing You’ve called me to this summer. 

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

 

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When We Least Expect It

This conversation came up for me multiple times today.

A conversation that involved the words, When we least expect it.

I woke this morning having slept a little later than I wanted to. I had told Autumn I would wake her and we would make breakfast together early, but I was a little late for that. We still got ready together in the morning, but not before I stumbled into a hand-scrawled note at the foot of my door.

Cass, I know you need a printer today, but that you were gonna go to the school cuz you didn’t want to wake me to use mine. I put it in the living room, please use it!

It was from Madds, and the little bit of thoughtfulness made me want to cry. We had a long prayer session last night, when I least expected it. I have been so busy lately and sometimes worldly anxieties try to say, “You don’t need group prayer.” But oh, Jesus knows that’s when we need to be hearing from Him most.

This morning I printed off my longest (and most complicated!) essay of my English major thus far to hand in to my prof, as well as my updated resume. I headed to downtown Kitchener to drop off my resume at a local coffee shop I’ve admired since it opened years ago… and the manager asked me straightaway if I’d like to interview for the position.

Not expecting that.

“Absolutely” was my response, and I was so excited and anxious. With a prayer that Jesus would guide, I interviewed for the spot and had such a wonderful conversation with the talented owner.

After the interview, I headed just up the street to meet my beautiful friend Kathryn, who I haven’t seen in much too long. Our coffee catch up was long overdue and much needed, and I praise the Lord for Kathryn in seeing the genuine healing that has taken place in her life. She is such a special, sweet, beautiful human.

To check out Kathryn’s blog, head here.

After coffee with Kathryn, I headed to meet some girls for a study session for my exam tomorrow.

These are two girls in one of my English classes who just simply out of the goodness of their heart have sent me notes, gone out of their way to encourage me, and invited me to prep for the exam with them. Not whatsoever expected of them, but out of their way. Studying with them, I feel so much more prepared for this exam. We talked about relationships and they asked me about “how I found mine.” I think they often happen when you’re not really looking, I said. It’s true that I met Johnny when I least expected to, that’s for sure.

After the study session, I headed home to beautiful roommates. All of us a little stressed, and a few of us confused about some big next steps, frustrated with hard work and no certainty of what’s next– my roommate Mary said something profound: “Jesus so often works in the last minute.”

The unexpected. In the midst of overwhelm, I know Jesus has gone before me. And it’s all for His sake, my life devoted to Him.

After a bit more studying, I headed out to teach a hip hop class at what I was told was a ” kids’ health fair.” I was hired to teach a 20 minute condensed version of one my the classes I regularly teach.

What I didn’t expect was a public school full of people of all ages, excited to learn hip hop.

I had about 10 minutes to think on my feet, pray, and rework my workshop to make it applicable to all ages at all levels. It was also by far the largest class I’ve ever had.

And by God’s Grace, it went so well, and it seemed everyone had so much fun, including myself. I had honestly been stressed about the little class for no reason at all– and also kindly was paid my regular dance salary for an hour plus a bonus.

I choreographed this all-ages-friendly routine last year, and felt very grateful to have it in my back pocket;).

Talking to the Lord about all these little moments of the unexpected, I am reminded that I wasn’t called to expect of myself, to make the rules, or call the shots. I was called to obey, to expect God’s greatness, and to prepare for it. He is teaching us along the way, and it’s a joyful, often spontaneous ride of service to a mighty, loving Lord.

Best Day Ever?

Today was one of the best days of my life.

And not because I won the lottery or Johnny came home or I got a puppy or got engaged or anything like that. But because today God spoke in tender ways, equipped me to be aware of His voice, and used my weaknesses to reveal His strength.

This morning, I woke up, got ready quickly as I’d slept in, and headed with Pastor Nat to Starbucks to meet a fellow youth leader, where we discussed our upcoming message series all about friendships, and what godly friendships look like. I’m preaching the talk on Influence, and God just filled my spirit with His word, Scripture, and stories as He put kids on my heart. Thank-you, Lord, for speaking when I look to You.

I also saw my dear friends Kevin and Kathryn’s brother, who is also a Starbucks barista, and who, in talking to, immediately put Kathryn on my heart to talk to and get in touch with. Thank-you, Lord, for putting people on our hearts even when I’m not always asking. 

From this meeting, I headed in abnormally cold, snowy, and windy weather to Cambridge, where I had my first ever meeting at LeadManaging, where I have just been hired as the staff writer and content curator. The property management software startup is designed and co-led by a beautiful, kind-hearted girl who I danced with many years ago, and it is thanks to this very blog that I have the opportunity to write for this incredibly innovative company.

I’ve been conversing with Dayna for over a week now, and one of my articles is being published this week! It was so wonderful to meet Dayna and the owner, Darren, and see their beautiful offices. I have prayed about this job, and felt such overwhelming peace and guidance from the Lord that I am meant to be here, and meeting with these genuine, professional people today only solidified that. It was such a pleasure, and truly one of the coolest experiences of my life of something coming together. Dayna also shared that she’d felt the decision to hire me was a no-brainer. Lord, use me for Your purposes at LeadManaging.

After the meeting, I headed outside and bumped right into my beautiful, co-bridesmaid-in-my-friend-Emily’s-upcoming wedding, friend Mariah’s dad. “You’re Mariah’s dad!” I exclaimed, and he put some really important things on my heart about Mariah, Emily’s wedding, and we talked and prayed. It was needed– and when I checked my phone, I had a text from Emily that affirmed my conversation with Mariah’s dad. Lord, thank-you for working in all of our hearts for a common purpose.

On my bus ride back from Cambridge, I was feeling so excited and grateful and just praising God for His ever faithfulness, when a heaviness fell over my heart, as I began to pray for others in my life that I knew were hurting. As that heaviness fell, I received a long text from my beautiful roommate Autumn, who called out exactly the heaviness I was feeling, reminded me that Jesus was in control, and that I was called only to love through Him. That she saw my heart. Lord, you give discernment to those who seek You. Thank-you for Your Spirit, and that it comes to us through amazing friends like Autumn.

I got home to my lovely little family of girls, and each one of us shared a little heaviness in our hearts. We were able to comfort and encourage each other in the Lord in the midst of stress. Thank-you, Lord, for the community and friendship You call us to.

I didn’t have much time at home before Youth, which I headed to next, where worshipping the Lord in song was exactly what I needed to be in. I also praised Him for the fact that my friend Jake’s little sister was at Youth for the second time! It seems both her and Jake are discovering God’s love, and this has been such an encouragement to me. Pastor Nat’s message was all about how being blind can be a part of our journeys, but THE part is Jesus giving us sight. We don’t need to know all the answers, but we CAN know what we experience, and no one can invalidate an experience. I had some amazing conversations, both in small group and one-on-one, with my youth girls. Jesus, thank-you for these girls; thank-you for churches; thank-you for SIGHT in You.

After Youth, Ani, Semara and I went for coffee, where Semara so vulnerably shared her heart with us. “I want to tell you I’ll pray for you, but sometimes I just don’t pray. I wish I remembered and cared more in the moment,” she said. Her vulnerability and honesty amazed me, and I praise God for that vulnerability that exposed her weakness to us. Lord, You are perfect in weakness– and certainly none of us are perfect in prayer. Help us to pray, to turn to You– and to be vulnerable in our struggles, like Semara’s example.

I got to Skype Johnny when I got home, and we talked about some really important things. Amazed as usual by the gifting and patience of my man, and proud of his vulnerability, we talked about this season of life and that very thing– God’s perfection made perfect in our weaknesses. He has taught me SO MUCH, and I cannot begin to explain how God has used him in my life. After talking with Johnny, I shared a bit with Maddie about our conversation, and my roommate Beth’s fiancee, Jared, overheard a bit from next door. He selflessly chatted with me for almost an hour about how he’d shared in such similar experiences to Johnny now– Jared felt really called to talk to and both learn from and help Johnny. Thank-you, Lord, for listening and vulnerable and wise friends like Maddie and Jared.

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Maddie, you are my sunshine.

Finally, as it was 1am and I was exhausted, I was about to head to bed– but while still in the kitchen, my dear Autumn came out for a snack and a drink, and I sat with her and snacked in the kitchen whilst we laughed, cried, and talked about her amazing gift of discernment. Her recent levels of freedom. She poured such TRUTH over my life and wisdom that I needed. And shared some struggles with me.

And together, we prayed.

Just before talking to Autumn, I’d felt the urge to crawl into bed.

Like how earlier I’d felt the urge to ignore my prayers for wisdom. To pretend I didn’t see Mariah’s dad might have been more comfortable. Or to not stop and talk to Kathryn’s brother. Many times today I felt overwhelmed– why so many souls in one day God?

Wow. What a horrible question.

Lord, excuse my humanity that gets tired. THANK-YOU that I get to serve You and am called to ministry and to people. Thank-You that I DON’T “DO” any of the work on souls– that’s all You. But thank-you that You use me. Today was so, so amazing only because of You, and I pray that I would live each day only expectant of Your incredible, life changing Spirit to be poured and that You would use me, that You would glorify Your name, and that people would find joy in You.

Have questions about who this Jesus is? Always here to talk. I am always excited to talk.

And Jesus Himself is a billion times more!

 

 

Day in the Life: Sleeping In, Serving, Burn-Out?

Greetings, friends!

I’m trying to put words to a euphoria I’ve been feeling and known for a long time. Here’s something I KNOW:

There is so much power in the way Jesus uses prayer. 

I think often the phrase “there is power in prayer” confuses us. My beautiful Maddie and I talked about this last night. It’s not that our praying will ever “convince” The God of the universe to “change His mind” or “heal someone” any differently than is already according to His plan and control– but our decision to converse with Him, to listen to Him, and to be a part of what His Spirit is always doing– as my dear friend Ani’s mom just quoted, not grasping Him every day but every moment– we become more attuned with what He’s doing not just in us, but everywhere. It’s amazing because He is.

And so, at my amazing Bible study this past week, I asked for some prayer for the way I live regarding putting my identity in the quantity of things I’m able to take on. I haven’t been very in tune with it, but for whatever reason, I feel some sense of satisfaction when I’m doing all sorts of things at once. And I know this is not good.

For example, I am very excited to be starting some work for a new job as a freelance writer for a software startup. As soon as I started working on a piece for it, I was overwhelmed with feeling like there were fifty other things I “should” be doing simultaneously, rather than devoting 100% of my attention to the article that deserved my 100% attention. I breathed, stepped back, and prayed. And was able to focus on the task in front of me.

This is a conviction I have everywhere. 100% committing to and being present in the area I’m called to in that moment. Expectant that God may do something off book– but not with my heart and mind elsewhere. Also not committing to too many avenues whilst knowing I can’t pursue them in the manner they deserve.

Also knowing that pride is in the way when a part of me thinks I need to be in something, a part of something, in order for it to work. Only Jesus can, and He will.

So this morning, when I slept until 11:30 because I was exhausted, and voices of guilt tried to keep in, I silenced them in the name of Jesus, and focused on what kept me smiling all day: the fact that it is my best friend Daniella’s birthday today.

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This beautiful girl AMAZES me in every possible way. She is the essence of literally every complimentary word I could think to give a human being. I am absolutely the most blessed woman alive to call her my best friend.

I thought about her sweet, selfless soul throughout the day, and as I looked to Jesus, I thanked Him for her birth and for her presence in my life and so many lives.

Classes were good and engaging as I tried to be present in both, to focus in 100% on first diasporic African literature, and then on the paradoxical accumulation and erosion in one author’s anthology.

From class I went straight to Youth, where tiredness and guilt wanted to get in the way of my having energy to be with my girls, to be present and helpful, and to be a leader. But Jesus through a beautiful, incredible friend of mine, Ani, talked me through those feelings and helped me to see the lies in them. To be present and joyful and seeing each human as the souls Jesus loves.

And I had SUCH A FUN NIGHT. Thank-you Jesus, and thank-you Ani!

And finally, I’m winding down with tea and chocolate chip sweet potato pancakes… my beautiful roommates… the blog (and the occasional essay), feeling at ease, at home, and knowing that my Father is in control.

Keep me talking to You, Jesus. Give me a heart that doesn’t want to stop praying, Lord. I just want to know You, Lord! 

 

A Day Without a Phone: More Addicted Than I Realize

Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behaviour.

I don’t want to be “addicted” to anything but Jesus. I felt this on my Spirit when I realized this morning, while talking to my roommate Mary, that my phone was sitting in a puddle of water on the kitchen counter.

And, rather than panicking or getting overly upset, I was grateful to react this way. By seeing this is a blessing. Okay, I definitely felt some guilt and stupidity for being a bit careless for this item that is a privilege to have and, in many ways, a really good thing to have. I allowed grace for myself for that carelessness, and asked God to help me see the ways today that my phone takes me away from Him.

I, with only the help of dear Mary, submerged my phone in rice– and thus commenced the day-long trial of feeling like I “was forgetting something.” I was late to class because of this euphoria; checked purse and pockets doubly a few times throughout the day. But there was a strange dichotomous feeling that I can’t ignore that came with the lack of cell phone, and I’d define it with this word, if I’m honest:

freedom.

After putting the phone in rice, I made myself chocolate chip banana pancakes with peanut butter while spending some time in the Word. No lit up screen or notification to distract me. No Instagram feed to scroll through. Just Jesus.

I got to have an amazing, focused conversation with my beautiful best friend Maddie, who listens so beautifully and who shared lots with me, too.

I was completely attentive in both my classes, and could probably repeat so many facts from both lectures (one on child soldiers portrayed in various literatures, and one on a poetry anthology about a murder case)– submerged in learning. Thank-you Jesus!

Bussing to Semara’s house later, before we went to Youth together, was strange, because I ALWAYS listen to music on the bus. But instead I prayed, talked with Jesus, and He put a lot of people on my heart to pray for.

I also believe He relieved me my phone to prepare me for many conversations that I had today with special friends who reached out to me, and He spoke to me about His heart that I would be 100% attentive to all people always, listening, loving, and open to what they have to say– equally listening to HIM and for the Truth He calls me to share.

By His grace, as a couple of my youth reached out to me today with some tough stuff (both, wisely and maturely, knowing Jesus would redeem their struggles), and a few friends my own age confided in me with some big stuff, I reflected on something I’d just written down:

Sometimes, it feels like I only hear struggles and horrible things people are going through. But, Lord, you are telling me that You’ve called people to talk to me about these things for a reason, and You’re calling me to share Your good news and to encourage through Your Word and through what You’ve shown me. Jesus, thank-you for being so faithful and that I can trust Your Word whole-heartedly. Remind me that my whole life is for Your sake, and meaningful when it’s laid down for You. I give everything to You, Jesus.

(Even– especially– my phone).

This Is The Day

From the barista who told me not to worry about paying for my bagel because my smile made her day;

to the research assignment I got great feedback from in class;

to the way my roommates and I have been bonding on whole new levels;

to the fantastic message delivered through a guest speaker at youth group;

to the moments Jesus Himself alone just brought a smile to my face;

to the 12am candy run and essay-cramming party with my roomies;

to the compliment I got in my renewed energy levels and “healthier looking legs;”

to the late-night conversation I got to have with my beautiful friend from church Semara and her brother about the way their friend loves;

to the kindness of a woman I spoke to on the phone about an order I’d placed;

to the good news that Johnny’s feeling better from a sickness;

to my time in the Word this morning where my attention was brought to things in Exodus that I’ve never noticed before…

I might have dwelled today on the things that seemed big or harrowing or frustrating– but every day is new in the Lord, and every day is one that He has made. Lord, may I rejoice in the good and the seemingly bad, may I look to You in all things and love selflessly in all things, learning from Your example and Your Spirit. Amen.

 

 

Expect the Unexpected

I’ve always believed I like routines.

I like knowing that my Wednesday involves class from 2:30-5:20, then Youth leading from 6:30-9. I do homework in the evening and sometimes work in the morning, but it’s also the one day I’m able to sleep in, so I take advantage of it if I can.

But the best things in life are never going to be of my own plans, my own routines, or my own ability to organize a day. They’re going to be when God debunks all that and speaks, and boy does He ever.

Today, after driver’s training, some stress over figuring out where the girls and I will be living next year, and class, I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted, moody, and anxious.

Struggling with the transition from being with Johnny 24/7 to being far away from him again, I spent some time in prayer that the Lord has continued to faithfully answer for His sake– drawing me back into Him.

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At Youth tonight, Pastor Nat spoke about the apostle Paul’s conviction that everything else was literally crap compared to simply knowing Jesus Christ. Lord, open my eyes to know that. ALL I want in this life and after is to know You! And knowing You is to be changed and living joy. 

Some of my blessings of friends from the church and I went out bowling after Youth, and I had such a fun and relaxed time. Having at first felt stressed about going because of assignments and studying piling up, I was so grateful that I did, surrounded by such beautiful and encouraging and fun friends. One of whom, Ani, shared with me how much Johnny and I had enriched her life indirectly through the Lord’s work in our relationship. So encouraging.

And, I came home late to my beautiful Maddie, who I talked and prayed with into the wee hours of the night– no time to do homework,  and so it will be done in the morning. And that’s ok. Plans change, but God doesn’t. When I choose to know His plan will prevail perfectly, and submit to it willingly and contentedly, I am amazed by how loudly I hear Him speak.