The Winter Blues

Does winter get anyone else down in the dumps?
I’m not trying to blame my attitude on the cold, because I know that owning my attitude is always my responsibility. But man… I really, really hate the cold. 

It is one sensation I can think of that makes me truly ANGRY.

It makes every activity more difficult. Like today, thinking about leaving the house for the different things on my agenda, from a meeting at my pastors’ house with their kids, which is one my favourite parts of my week, to a coffee and study date with beautiful Mary, to shopping, all things I love and have a generally positive attitude about– the cold weather can literally be enough to almost keep me inside.

Always “almost”… it’s never actually kept me inside, that I can recall.

But the severity of my disliking toward cold weather makes me wonder why we have it in the first place.

And then it makes me reflect why we have much bigger, truly problematic situations present in the world, hardships and fighting and poverty and greed.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Now, I am a baby and out of line to liken dealing with the cold as a very privileged Western person as “suffering.” But my internal and external struggles with it reminded me of the promise of this verse in Romans. Suffering, hardships, difficult times, and struggles… they are part of the Gospel. They themselves produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope in God’s love, NO MATTER WHAT.

So, to my friend struggling… with ANYTHING…

God knows you. Inside and out. And He hears your silent prayer. Bring it to Him, for real, and entrust it to Him. Know that He has deeper plans for every trial, and that an attitude that says, “This hardship will produce endurance, which will produce character, which will produce hope in the ONE THING that will never fail” is one God calls you to. 

Don’t judge me, but I’m still gonna go into the cold with an attitude that says that God is gonna use the chill in my bones to produce endurance, character, and hope… and honestly, He does. He uses everything. 

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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.

Discovering Sufficiency

He is said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Is it?
Do I live as though I believe this? Do I believe this?

Today Jesus blessed me by confronting me with this grace that I certainly believe in, this Truth that is too good to be true– Jesus’ grace is all I need— and giving me tangible tools to heal from layers of lies that have sought to teach me that grace isn’t sufficient.

All in His timing.

Jesus, You are so so good.

Waking early this morning, I made pumpkin spice pancakes and coffee and spent time in His Word before heading out the door to meet two of my pastors and friends.

What the next hour in their company brought was healing I couldn’t imagine.

Offering me leadership accountability and counselling, this dynamic duo, through the Holy Spirit, equipped me with tools as I met them with my biggest conviction of the past several years: My lifestyle is too busy.

I don’t live as though I believe His grace is sufficient. Because when I’m not doing something, I think I need to be. I fill up all my time so that I don’t have to think or rest. A phenomenon that has led to my hyper-processing, and a low ability to focus on one thing at a time. Stressed to the max, I haven’t known how to say no.

After meeting with this beautiful family, I took all my notes and everything they had said, and prayed. I sat still in Jesus’ presence and allowed myself to be there. And I heard Him speak:

There are still areas of law in your life, Cassie. I call you to freedom. 

Having feared, in the past, letting go of many of the stringent routines I’ve adhered to for a long time, Jesus made very clear to me some of the tangible things in these routines that didn’t need to be there, and that were stumbling blocks rather than helpful. Things I actually didn’t care about, but was just so used to doing.

I did the necessary things, after praying, to remove these stumbling blocks from my life.

Lay it down. He picks it up. Thank-you Jesus.

And today, I was more present than ever with my homework.

I had a killer workout without thinking about/stressing about other things.

I was present with my beautiful friend, Brooke, who really needed a listening ear.

And I’m not afraid to rest tonight and watch MasterChef, read a book I’m loving, eat some snacks. These simple things would usually give me anxiety that I have not previously been aware of, but, as I sit here and write, I feel a calm in every part of my being that I haven’t felt in a long time. I have established priorities that my Lord has anointed, and they’re for His sake, and rest/fun is a part of that.

His grace is sufficient for me, period. His grace is all this life is about. And I will boast in my weaknesses in order that His strength might be known– because the more weaknesses Cassie has, the more His strength is made manifest in my short time on this earth.

 

Learning to Rest for Real

Happy Wednesday!

My Wednesdays look like rest this semester.

Like, actually. I mean, I do homework as needed, and I do my work from home (freelance writing projects and blog work), but this is about it. I have learned what rest is to me, and sometimes it looks like seeing friends, other times it needs to look like doing very little.

I always thought growing meant movement. Growth must equate to a “go-go-go” lifestyle, right?

Well, after a year of full-time uni, working three jobs, volunteering, and facing physical health issues, I have finally begun to learn that growth looks like synchronization with Jesús… which certainly doesn’t demand our doing fifty things at once.

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:2

It wasn’t until I went to Jesus to pray over some of these things in my life I saw as ministries that I realized I had become a slave to arbitrary laws surrounding them rather than seeking His will in them.

And, simply put, I am not capable of seeking His will whilst doing well in school and maintaining a personal relationship with Christ, nor am I called to. So while I left my this last year of university feeling like I had performed mediocrely, Jesus said I’ve never loved you on a basis of your performance, or how many things you can do at once. I simply love you, and I want to shine that love through you: energetic, called, and equipped Cassie.

I have always stood firmly by the belief that intentional relationships should trump experiences. I care deeply about the people in my life, and believe that compassion is at the heart of who our Lord is.

And compassion can surely be the initial reason for taking on a role of any kind, but it doesn’t necessarily sustain. And when it’s not His Spirit sustaining, that’s when productivity replaces passion, and results replace relationships.

I found myself dictated by stringent schedules and worldly standards, skipping my time at my Father’s feet and convinced outwardly that I didn’t need that time.

I’d love to say that I’ve found this perfect rhythm in which the Holy Spirit guides my every word and step, but I would be lying. But I certainly have been convicted that nothing of true worth can be done without Him.

So today, sleeping in, spending time catching up with Maddie and going to the gym with her, treating myself to a peaceful lunch, meeting with my friend and co-worker Dayna for coffee to catch up on life and work, looking forward to a slow night at home watching Masterchef… I recognize that I need this, because it’s in the spaces that I am not trying to fill that I recognize that my desire to fill spaces often comes from a place of fear.

But I need to rest to be equipped to serve.

I need to be filled up by Him in moments of silence and stillness in order to physically move.

So movement and growth, I’ve discovered, can look like what the world might call a step back.