Reviewing mediocre juice stations everywhere!

I have never been one of those people who cares about issues with customer service.  If I went to a restaurant and ordered a hamburger and the waitress came out with a salad, I’m that person that would just eat the salad and if I’m still hungry I’ll stop at McDonald’s on my way home and be just as content.

As a kid, I don’t ever remember hearing my dad harshly complain about customer service.  My dad never yells.  When he would be correcting me, I would always cry “Stop yelling at me!” and he would always say in his authoritative tone, “I’m not yelling…”  Every year when my mom and dad would go Christmas shopping, my mom would pick out all her items and my dad would wait in line for an hour to pay while my mom moved onto the next store.  He’s never in a rush to get anywhere.  His trademark is stopping on the side of the road, no matter how late we are, to look at the turkeys in some field we are passing.  My dad loves turkeys.

As a kid I didn’t really get the fact that my dad never yelled, but now it is something that I have come to really appreciate about him.  My dad is an incredible example of what it looks like to show grace in a person’s life.

As someone who has worked in customer service and seen the reviews people will give or the phone calls they’ll make to managers, I know that it is much more likely that a person will submit a complaint but will not submit anything if they have a compliment.

Last year I started a job where I have to travel quite a bit.  I spent over a month straight on the road, staying in tons of different hotels, renting 3 different cars, and eating out 2-3 times a day.  Regardless of whether my food, hotels, and cars were good or bad I continued in my habit of saying nothing.

A little after half way through my trip I stayed at a hotel and got bed bugs.  I woke up in the middle of the night covered in bites, looked around and killed something very small, google imaged a bed bug and was pretty sure that was it.  Thinking it was a bed bug and knowing they don’t like light I turned my phone flashlight on and put it by my legs, then put my headlamp on to cover my face and fell back asleep.

In the morning I went to the front desk and informed the lady of what happened and showed her the bug I killed.  She said, “Oh, that’s not a bed bug.  It’s a bug, but not a bed bug.  But I’ll still comp your night and move you to another room.”  The next day she told me they cleaned our room and found nothing so it definitely wasn’t a bed bug.

That lady was wrong.  After consulting quite a few people I realized that it was in fact a bed bug.  My friend told me that I should write a formal complaint and they should send me an official apology but I never did.

I think if I’m gonna take the time to complain about something, I need to also take the time to compliment something.  I never want to become someone who finds it easy to complain without finding a solution.  I don’t want to become someone who is known for her impatience or ungraciousness.

So, last year when I thought about complaining about the bed bug situation, I made a decision that before I could officially complain about any service, I have to officially compliment 10 services.

Putting in the effort to compliment people for their service is a bit of work, but it is important to do.  Sometimes it’s easier to just tell your barista, “Hey, you’re great!” which may be nice for them, but it’s also important that their manager hears that they’re doing a good job.  This world is absolutely swamped in negative reviews and if you and I don’t step up and put in the effort to be positive then no one will.

And sometimes, something really terrible happens in the service industry.  Sometimes you order a burger and you get a salad and they charge you for lobster.  I’m not saying we should all just roll over and get taken advantage of, sometimes issues need to be mentioned.  But we can still do that with grace.

In May I went on another recruiting trip and got bed bugs AGAIN.  We stayed in a hotel for 2 nights and on the first night I got bit a few times.  I thought it was a spider because the bites were kind of random and weren’t very close together, I went to the front desk at 3 am and let the lady know but there were no other rooms available.  She apologized profusely, gave me a change of sheets and I slept with my flashlights on again.  The next night I was getting bit again and this time I killed a bug.  I went back to the front desk and again there were no other rooms available.  She apologized again, validated that it was a bed bug, gave me another set of clean sheets and offered to wash all my luggage for me.

The next morning as we were checking out and I was getting my cleaned luggage from the front desk I asked to leave a message for the manager letting him know that the woman at the front desk overnight was extremely helpful and kind and did the best that she could to help me with the situation.  The manager ended up comping our night and after we left had the room fumigated and confirmed that I wasn’t crazy, and we did have bed bugs.

Now, as I am getting ready to head back on the road and booking my hotels I am so terrified that I am going to get bed bugs again.  Not only are they an insatiable itch, but they are painful and they make me look like I’m covered in hives which is kind of embarrassing.

Because of this fear I am spending more time reading reviews and actually picking specific hotels.  Some of the reviews on these places are ridiculous.  People will review a hotel as “terrible” and then their review will say, “never staying here again, the lobby was too small and the juice at the continental breakfast was mediocre!”  And although I have tried to make more of an effort to officially compliment businesses and employees, I need to make more.  And so, on this trip I am going to review every hotel I stay at, every car rental I receive, and every restaurant I eat in, and whether it is good or bad I am going to be honest and kind.

And when I’m getting tired and finding it impossible to think of synonyms for “good” I will think about where my life would be if I had never experienced grace and if no one took the time to encourage or correct me in a kind and loving way.

My application with GEM is in the works & it’s time you knew about it.

My grandma got me this quote in a frame once, and I always have it on my wall.  It says, “She wasn’t where she had been, she wasn’t where she was going, but she was on her way.”  My life is an adventure and I love every second of it.  It is all a journey to get me where I’m going, and, well, God’s giving me the go ahead to take the next step.

Many of you know about my time with overseas missions.  It’s been a real doozy but an awesome and totally incredible doozy that I am so blessed to have as a memory in my life.

I often get asked, “So when are you going back to Ireland?”  By family, friends, Irish, Canadians, and Americans.  Everyone knows my heart remains in Ireland and always will.  However, I have been on this journey to listen to God and wait on him to take me back when he is ready.

In December 2011 I felt that God was calling me to stay in Abbotsford and make this my home for now until he took me on the adventure which is the rest of my life.  So, I stayed here.  And I’ve been here as a non-student for 2 years now.  I spent a long time struggling with why God told me to stay here.  I worked in various coffee shops and felt like God was a big dummy for not using me elsewhere.  But as time has gone on I have loved my time here and I am blessed by friends and family that have surrounded me and poured into my life over the last couple years.

I have certain friends in my life that when we get together, we always end up talking about where God is going to take us next.  We daydream about all the adventures we will go on and all the places we will see as we live out his calling on our lives wherever.

One of these friends is Brittani.  Brittani and I have been friends since my first year at Columbia and when we get together all we can talk about is our favorite romantic comedies, christmas, and what our lives will be like when we go back overseas one day.  We are planners.  We get together and throw around ideas of where we would go and what we would do.

Every time we do this, I go back to the same thing.  I want to go to Colorado and work in Greater Europe Mission Headquarters as Rod’s assistant for a couple years working with GEM K ministries.  I want to do that for X amount of years and after that head back overseas.  Perhaps I will go back to Ireland if God is so kind, or maybe he will lead me somewhere else in Europe.  Of that, I am not sure yet.  When I head back overseas I want to be a part of a church plant team and I want to work with youth.

And I want to do it for the rest of my life.

I have discussed this with Rod in the past and he is in full support of me coming to work with him.  However, my procrastination has always gotten the better of me and I haven’t begun the application process.  In January, I met with Brittani and we got to talking about living in Colorado and working with GEM K’s then heading over to Europe and working with youth there for the rest of my life and then I thought “I AM SUCH AN IDIOT!”

I have known that this is what God has been calling me to for so long, but I keep letting my fears get in the way and never follow through on that calling.  By the time Brittani and I had finished our dinner I knew I was going to start the application to go back and work with GEM in Colorado.

I made appointments to meet with like 7 of my mentors via skype and starbucks.  I talked to them all at length about this plan and they were all stoked about what God was doing in my life.  I filled out the first information form and mentioned Rod on it who was contacted and confirmed that there was a place for me there.  I then was invited to begin filling out the application.  I filled out the application on a Saturday afternoon in Alberta while on a work trip and spent about 4 hours pouring over these answers.

Once that was submitted, I got an email asking me for more paperwork and biographies on my life.  This email also said that if I finished filling out the paperwork in 10 days that I could be invited to candidate orientation in April.

This. Freaked. Me. Out.

In my mind, I was going to take a year to process through this application, then take a couple years to raise funds.  So, I would still have like 3 years in Abbotsford.  Suddenly, the realization that I could be accepted by April and starting to fundraise at that point made me panic.  I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Abbotsford yet!

And so I dug my feet in and halted in my tracks.  I had to get like 6 references and they all filled out their forms immediately.  For the last 6 months they have all been asking me every month or so, “So how’s your application coming?” And I’ve said, “uhhh…. I haven’t finished it yet…”

I have had the biography section of questions opened on my computer since February, literally.  And every time I start to fill out an answer I get overwhelmed and walk away or watch a tv show.

But, no more!  I am finishing this!  And I have until August to complete the application.  If I do, I can be invited to orientation in September and begin my fundraising (I think).  So, I sat down today to answer some questions and it asked, “How do you feel about raising prayer support?”  Then I thought, I should ask my friends to pray for me that I can overcome my procrastination and finish this.  However, I felt without the back story to how I got here everyone would just be like, “Whaaaa?  You’re applying to go back?!”

So here I am, telling you these plans that I am so stoked on, that God has blessed my mind with and has confirmed along the way.  I am pumped to see where he takes me and the adventure that will ensue.

Prayer Requests:

-THAT I CAN FINISH THIS APPLICATION!  I started it in January, there is no good reason why I haven’t finished it yet.  I once listed procrastination as a strength on a personal review.  Everyone was baffled by it and I told them, “I’m REALLY good at procrastinating…” but enough is enough!  Motivation!!

-That any fears associated with this will be replaced with peace, and that as God calls me in this direction that he will show me confirmation that I am headed the right way.

Grace and Peace!

Shanna

 

For those that don’t know where this is coming from -feel free to ask me in person about it.  I’d love to tell you.  If you want to read some blogs pre-this decision go ALLLL the way back to the very first blogs posted on this website and you will get to read about my adventures in Ireland all the way up to my decisions about why I am where I am today. But unless you love to read, it may be easier to just ask me.

Finding rest in the backcountry

Last year my housemate, Donna, went on a trip called “The GOOSE.”  The Goose is actually “G.O.S.E.” and stands for “Guiding and Operating Skills Exam.  One of our programs at the school has this final exam, and it is basically a week long back country camping trip where the students bring a couple of clients and have to keep them alive.

When Donna returned from this trip she told me all about it and it sounded AMAZING!  So, when I started working at the school I was determined to find out how I could go on this trip.  A couple months ago a mass email was sent out from the program director inviting staff and faculty to go on this trip as clients, I responded immediately requesting to go.

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Photo Cred: Connor

They ended up having a smaller group of students this year, so they only needed one client, and I was it.  It was terrifying at first, the thought of all the attention being on me, but I was still stoked to go knowing I would get to camp and all fearful things are void when the peace of camping is close by.

A couple weeks before we were scheduled to head out I started getting really stressed out.  I had A LOT of stuff going on.  I was searching for a new apartment with 2 of my housemates, and anxiously re-doing my budget every day to plan for the expense of each new place we looked at, and mentally preparing for my new surroundings then deciding against them and having to start from scratch.

I had this week long trip coming up, after returning I was heading out for a week long work trip in Northern BC, and the week after that was heading to California for my brother’s graduation.  The thought of all these things coming up, and the amount of stuff that had to get done in between trips was giving me insomnia.

On top of all these things, I had relationship drama and was trying to process how best to move forward while respecting everyone involved and not being a total door mat.

I knew these things were stressing me out, but I couldn’t grasp the weight of all of these things together, which meant that any time something new came up I would take on the responsibility, because, hey! I had time, why not?  What I wasn’t getting was that while I may have had the physical time to take on new challenges, I did not have the mental capacity to put 100% into the projects.

My mind was not aware of the fact that I was crossing the line into anxiety and stress territory, but my body did.  My eye started twitching.  It happens to me pretty often, as I usually don’t know when I’m over-committing myself until it’s too late.  Along with the irritating flutter I started devouring my nails.  I usually bite my nails, but it was seriously bad, biting way too far and making myself bleed.

I talked to my friend Robin about it, nervous that I was about to head out on this week camping trip and I’m already so anxious and my body is trying to cope with all this stress.  I need some alone time, I can’t spend a week with a bunch of students!!  Robin, who has been on the trip before, calmed me by saying that when she was on the trip she found her time to be extremely rejuvenating even though she is an introvert.

I started packing for the trip the night before, my eye now twitching for 3 weeks straight.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was ready for anything.

I woke up at like 5:45am to meet the students at the school and prepare to head out.  We crossed the border at 6:45 and my phone was shut off for the next 7 days.  It was the most blissful 7 days I’ve had in such a long time.

We drove 5 hours to Forks, WA.  When we got there people started mentioning how the town was just a logging community until Twilight happened and suddenly it started opening up Twilight souvenir shops and tours.  They pointed out a sign that marked the treaty line between the werewolves and the vampires, and the vampire warning level sign.  I then informed them that I read all the Twilight books and totally loved them.  I have no shame.

Every time we drove through Forks throughout that week, someone always asked something about vampires and I felt like a wealth of knowledge informing them of the facts about vampires, ::They live here because it rains so much and the sun makes them sparkle:: They have to move every 4 years so that schools don’t think it’s weird that they never age:: The werewolves are only present to protect the land from the Vampires, so once they leave they go back to growing up plain old humans:: etc, etc.

At one point we were driving past the high school and I wanted to see if it was the same school that they used in the movie (it wasn’t).  All I wanted was to spot it from a couple streets over, but the guy driving the car insisted on taking a detour to look at it.  Then there was that awkward moment when the student got on the walkie talkie to say, “We’re making a quick detour so Shanna can see the high school they used in the Twilight movie…” Like I said, no shame.

Hole-in-the-wall

Hole-in-the-wall – Photo Cred: Kendal

For our trip we hiked along the Olympic coast, mostly the south side, but we spent a day on the North side to check out Hole-in-the-wall and Chilean memorial.  On that day we got to see a bunch of sea anemones and seals and we got to camp at Ellen’s creek which had an awesome spot to sit and watch the ocean.

Most of the campsites we stayed at had a toilet with 2 sides of a fence around it, and nothing but the serene outdoors as your view while you relieved yourself.  I, however, spent my entire time processing through what I would do if a bear or raccoon came out while I was sitting there.  It was a very stressful time for me, but in the end all my worry was for naught.

Ellen's Creek

Ellen’s Creek – Photo Cred: Dana

That night at Ellen’s Creek I was sitting on a log and the two other girls on the trip came and sat by me.  We started having this deep talk about what we want to do with our lives and the one girl, Jess, asked me, “What’s your biggest fear?”  I said, “Probably being chased, or people jumping out at me.  I’m sure there are things I’d be more scared of, but those are the only things I’ve experienced that have made my heart race the most.”  Everyone else went around and talked about some things they’re scared of. (remember this story for later….)

The next day we went back into Forks to re-stock on groceries and hiked down to stay at Third Beach.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a safe campsite and had to hike back out and stay at camp Mora again. (Camp Mora was a general camp ground that we stayed at the first night, nothing special except real toilets which are always nice.)

The next day we hiked back down to Third Beach and on to Toleak Point.  This was my favorite day.  Of the 7 days on the trip this was the only day that it didn’t rain at all.  One other day it only rained a bit, and all of the other days it was either on and off rain or full downpours.

Note the mud on my pants

Note the mud on my pants – Photo Cred: Connor

We did a bit of inland trail which was super fun and muddy, but when you’re wearing rain pants it’s almost like your mind is convinced that you can’t actually get dirty so you just tromp confidently through the mud.  When we came out on the other side we headed to the sea caves which was one of the main things I wanted to see.  On our way over we heard this noise, like a short scream or cry.  As we got closer, we found a baby sea otter trapped behind a log and eagles circling overhead.

I. could. not. contain. my. emotions.  It was THEE cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  Everyone else was like, “Oh it’s so cute” and I was literally just standing there, grabbing my face and wailing.

We needed to head over to the sea caves before the tide came in, but watching the eagles loom overhead, I wasn’t sure how to proceed.  A couple other people decided to stay back, the baby sea otter was safe and we could explore the sea caves.  As we hopped throughout the rocks somebody yelled “Hey! Here’s the dead sea otter mom!”  Everyone started talking about skinning it and bringing it back with them.  All I could think about was how this baby was now for sure gonna die without it’s mom to protect it.  The guide for the day led me away from the dead mom and blocked my view from it which I will be eternally grateful for.

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Photo Cred: Connor

When we got back from the sea caves the sea otter pup was gone.  I looked at someone and asked what happened to it, then I told them, “If it’s dead, I need you to lie to me and tell me it’s fine.”  They started telling me how the guys that stayed back helped it over the log, and walked it back to the water so the eagles wouldn’t get it.  Then people kept saying stuff like, “Yeah, the pup is safe and sound… in heaven…” or “The pup was alive… the last time we saw it….” – Baby sea otter, I hope you are alive and well wherever you are out there!

That night we stayed at Toleak point, which was the most beautiful campsite.  It was right off the beach and we all just sat on logs all night watching the sun set.  The toilet was a 3 minute walk down a path, and since it was dark I asked a couple of the other girls to walk with me (also, because no one likes to go to the bathroom alone, ESPECIALLY me.  I don’t know why, I think there is just comfort in knowing if you walk back with someone people are less suspicious of you.  But if you walk back by yourself people are like, “Where were you?” It’s quite intimidating)

These 2 girls and I are walking and suddenly Jess jumps out from behind a tree and screams, then she sees my face and is instantly horrified and starts apologizing profusely and telling me that she didn’t know I was with them or else she would have never done it.  I smacked her, and my emotions started to overcome me, my eyes started watering and Kendal yelled, “Jess, you made her cry!”  I wish I could say, “No, I just had something in my eye.”  But there was no fooling them, my emotions were so intense, my heart racing so fast that it was an entirely natural reaction for my eyes to water!  Stop judging me.  I am proud to say, however, that I did hold them back, and no tears fell down my cheek.  Keep in mind that I did say my biggest fear was people jumping out at me.

The next day we got to sleep in and hang out on the beach for a bit waiting for the tide to go down.  We hiked some more inland trails, some parts were a bit more terrifying than others, specifically the parts that were steep dirt hills with ropes to hold onto so you don’t plummet to your death.

At one point, I had a guide walk down a hill holding onto the rope in front of me, and at the bottom of the hill was the top of a wooden ladder that I had to climb down, again with ropes just hanging there, falling vertically, reminding you that if you slipped and weren’t holding onto them, that you would die.  I stood at the top of this ladder and looked down, only to see the program director with this huge smile and giving me a thumbs up.

I survived.

And as people followed me down and we all met at the bottom I kept saying, “Man, wasn’t that scary!?”  And they all appeased me and said that it was, bless their hearts.

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Photo Cred: Connor

That night we stayed at Mosquito Creek which sounds grosser than it was, I didn’t see any mosquitos.  There was this one particular spot in the campsite where there were openings in the trees and it overlooked the ocean.  I sat there for a while watching the waves, hoping to see a whale (which I did not) and thinking about life.  Meanwhile, all the students were explaining their first aid procedures from earlier to the examiners.

I sat there thinking about how much I love my life, and how many opportunities God gives me to do exciting new things.  I thought about how much I love camping and the ocean, and being in God’s creation.  I thought about how if my situation in life was any different, if I was married, had kids, or had a different job, how it would have been incredibly more difficult to find the time to experience this.  I thought about how much I loved being disconnected from the world.  And then I realized, my eye hasn’t twitched all week.  And suddenly was overwhelmed with joy at how awesome God is, and how one week away from life can calm me down.

Later that night, I was freezing and had tons of layers on.  Two students were making funnel cakes for dessert and I was watching it in fascination.  They gave me the first funnel cake and I held it on a plate in my hand.  I looked at the funnel cake, then at the glove covering my hand, then at the funnel cake, then at the glove.  I started wiping my hand on my side trying to push the glove off (still not sure why I didn’t just set the funnel cake down, maybe it looked too good to set down?) and then the one student said “here” and held out his hand… PROBABLY to hold the funnel cake, so I could take my glove off.  However, still determined to not let this funnel cake out of my grasp, I held my hand out and he took my glove off for me.  Is this the epitome of laziess?  Maybe.

New Glasses-3

Photo Cred: Kendal

The next day we started hiking to oil city.  It was a lot more inland trail and on and off rain, but I loved every second of it.  When we got to Oil City I was told we could either camp in the rain (which was down pouring) or hike the half mile back to the van and head home.  I said, “I really like camping…” So the guide started to look for a campsite.  While he was gone, some of the other students came up to me and were like, “Really?  Are you sure?  Do you really want to camp here?  It’s gonna keep raining… ARE YOU SURE?”

Luckily, the guide got back and there wasn’t a campsite we could stay at so we had to move ahead anyway.  We were gonna spend another night at the Mora campsite, which if that was the case I would rather go home anyway.  However, on our last little trek back to the van there was a creek that was like 5 feet wide.  Everyone walked across it on rocks.  When I got there, I stepped on a rock, which my foot promptly slipped off filling my boot with water, and since it was the end of our journey anyway I decided to just tromp through without care of how wet my socks would get.

By the time we got back to the van it was decided that we would travel back to Abbotsford that night.

We all changed into our van clothes and hopped in nice and dry.  I sat in the front which I got the entire time in an effort to save me from car sickness.  After I hopped in Harry, one of the interns, told me that he thought I was a natural hiker which I laughed out loud at.  Anyone who knows my experience hiking in New York knows I was a vehement hater of the activity for most of my life.  Then the director, Chris, started agreeing with him and the two of them started talking about how I didn’t have any injuries and how I didn’t complain during the hike (which is also something that would have never happened on a hike in NY, I would have used any air that I had to complain about the hike which is probably why I was always so winded at the end).  However they came to the conclusion, it was super encouraging of them to say which I thank them for.

We got home at 5am on Sunday and I went into my room and fell asleep.  I woke up at 11am, and I kid you not, my eye started twitching again within minutes of waking up.

I learned and saw a ton on this trip and enjoyed my time immensely.  I cannot wait to go on my next backcountry camping trip.  I even got a dehydrator at MCC for $6.75 and am currently giving it its first test run dehydrating apples as I type.  Once I master this, I will dehydrate everything and be fully prepared for all my meals.

But my absolute favorite parts about this trip (other than the super awesome students that I got to know) was being able to just sit in peace enjoying all that my creator made for me.

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Photo Cred: Josh

Christ’s forgiveness amidst his suffering

Lately I’ve been trying to understand the balance of being Christ-like while still taking care of myself.  I’m gonna be honest, it’s super difficult.

I have never been one to struggle with trusting people.  I assume everyone is good and isn’t out to intentionally harm me.  Sometimes, I am horribly mistaken.  It hasn’t been until recently that someone started pointing out to me when I’m being taken advantage of or when I’m being bullied.  It’s kind of nice because I am so incredibly oblivious to it, and it’s nice to know that I have friends who are looking out for me.

However, it also makes me frustrated with myself for being naïve and needing someone to defend me all the time.  It would be great if I could just know when I’m being manipulated or bullied and defend myself, ya know?  Prove that I’m not a fool!  Then I start to think of what that looks like…

I currently have people in my life who bully me or manipulate me.  I’m starting to become aware when someone talks about me behind my back and acts like we’re best friends to my face.  Knowing these things, is exhausting.  I thought it would be nice, that I could defend myself and prove that I am strong, but all it does is drain me.

I have 2 levels of friendship, every single person I know fits into one of these levels: “best friend” and “acquaintance.”  If we are good friends then we are best friends and everything that is mine is yours (except when I make nachos).  I may not be great at keeping in touch with you, but when I see you it will be like no time has passed at all.

If I don’t know you, or don’t know you well, then you are my acquaintance.  I will smile at you and say hello, I will engage you in conversation, but I will feel more awkward being myself around you and will keep things pretty surface level.  As soon as an acquaintance shows interest in being a friend, they move into the best friend category.  It’s pretty simple really.

As of late, I am starting to form this new level in my heart of “people I don’t like very much.”  The people in this category are those who I have witnessed intentionally hurt me.  People who probably have been bullying or manipulating me all along and I’m starting to notice.

I hate having this level.  It is hard for me to make eye contact with people on this level, and I feel like I just don’t want to be present when they are around.  I find ways to leave the room or avoid conversation because I know I will not be able to hide the fact that they are not on the best friend level.

As these situations have come up I have been struggling.  I am struggling with how I should deal with these feelings.  I mean, these people are mean, so I shouldn’t put myself in their company and just submit to their actions!  But I want to continue to be gracious and kind despite their lack of the virtues.  How am I supposed to do that?  How am I supposed to willingly put myself in a position of vulnerability with people who take advantage of that for their own gain?

When I was a teenager I would pray for certain characteristics.  I *really* lacked patience, so I prayed for patience, I constantly prayed for wisdom and that God would fill me with the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  And in case, the first two times weren’t enough, I prayed for patience again.  I prayed that God would show me how to love people the way he loves them and to always be able to forgive.

Now, in this situation, I am praying that God shows me how to continue forward with these people.  I pray that God would show me how to love them and be kind and gracious towards them, while still guarding my heart.

Last week I heard the song “Hosanna” and there is a lyric that says, “Show me how to love like you have loved me.”  When I sang this line I immediately thought of these people and again struggled with the idea of what that looks like.  In order to love them, I need to be genuine, be myself around them, and that opens me up to so much hurt!

Today is Good Friday.

On Good Friday we often hear the story of how Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice and died for all of us.  However, today, as I heard this story for the thousandth time, I heard a different message.

We go through scene after scene and we hear stories about how Jesus was mistreated, how he didn’t deserve the pain he faced, and how he bore it all for us.  But today, I heard a message of forgiveness.

- In Luke 22:14-17 Jesus has communion with his disciples.  Not only that, He says, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.”  Fully aware that his disciples are about to betray him, Jesus fellowships with them and desires to be with them.

- In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus predicts Simon Peter’s betrayal and says that he is praying for him.

- In Matthew 26:47 Jesus, fully aware of Judas’ betrayal, lets Judas kiss his cheek.  Knowing that kissing his cheek is a sign of friendship, and Judas is being anything but a friend, Jesus still lets him kiss him.  Not only that, but he responds with “Friend, do what you came for.”  Wait a sec, he still calls him friend?!

- In Luke 22:49-51 Peter cuts off the ear of one of the high priest’s trying to arrest Jesus.  Jesus heals him.

- Matthew 27:15-26 is the story of the crowd requesting that Pilate release Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Everybody talks about how awful Barabbas was, and how the crowd hated Jesus so much that they would rather have an innocent man crucified than a murderer.  But today as I heard this story, I heard a story of forgiveness, of Jesus giving his life so that a murder could have a second chance.

It is easy to look at this story and think that Jesus was just sitting there suffering at the hand of men, but Jesus could have stopped it at any time.  Which means, Jesus was actively forgiving and bearing the suffering that these people were pouring on him.  It is hard to cope with the idea that murderers can go to heaven too, but Jesus accepting the crucifixion instead of Barabbas shows that he died so that a murderer could live.

As you continue to read the crucifixion story people were basically like a mob on a witch hunt, like the kind you see in movies.  These people were awful.  They mocked Jesus, tried to make him look like a fool by placing a crown of thorns on his head and calling him names, they completely tortured him.  And in Luke 23:34 Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

It is so easy to read this story and just see Jesus as the hero who died for us, but he did so much more.  Even in his death, he was exemplifying the kind of life that he calls us to.  People suck, but Jesus continually forgave them, fellowshipped with them, prayed for them, healed them, died for them, and called them friend.

May I remember that as I respond to the way that I am treated.

The absence of coffee in a person’s life

The first time I ever heard about Lent, I was a first year at CBC.  Everybody was talking about what they were giving up for lent and I had no idea what they were talking about.  I’ve never done a ton of research on the subject as that’s not my style, but I did enough to understand what it is and why people do it.

That first year, I decided to give up Myspace for lent.  Oh man, do you guys remember myspace and the emotional drama of being in a top 8 and then some people had a top 16 and your life goal was to be number one on that top list.  I remember being so upset when someone would take me off their top 8 or when someone would get upset with me for moving them down in the ranks.  Oh man, drama.  Good riddance!

So, I gave up Myspace for Lent, and guess what?  About 2 weeks in I created a facebook account.  Sometimes I decide to give something up for Lent, and almost every time I replace it with something else.  One time I gave up coffee and by the end of Lent I was pounding back green teas like they were water.

The whole purpose of fasting from something is that when you crave whatever you are fasting from, you pray.  Except in my case, whenever I craved something I would just find something else to fill that void that wasn’t Jesus.  And, I am REALLY good at rationalizing my irrational actions to myself and legitimizing void fillers.

My coworker made a comment about how she gives something up that won’t be “Selfish fasting” before Lent began.  She was talking about when people give up Starbucks or junk food, but in giving up those items they are saving money and losing weight.  Their fast ends up being more about how they want to change their physical well being than pointing them towards God.  Giving up Starbucks, yeah that can be difficult, but you can always make coffee at home.  Now, giving up caffeine, there’s a challenge.

I am 100% addicted to caffeine.  I am completely ok with this addiction and have no desire to not be addicted to caffeine.  You could tell me all the negative opinions about it, and I will not listen to any of them because I love coffee.

I love everything about coffee.  I love the smell.  I love the taste.  I love the way it looks in a cute mug.  I love the crema that forms at the top and makes cute little designs as it fizzles out.  I love the warmth it brings to my esophagus on the way down.  I love the way it makes my eyes feel less droopy at 9am.  I love that when I drink it my whole body feels like it can take on the world if for just a few moments.  I love when people walk by me with a cup of coffee and I can smell it as they pass.  And here’s an awkward one, I love when someone just drank coffee and then they talk to me and I smell their coffee breath.  Coincidentally, I also love the smell of skunk.  But the thing I love most about coffee, is the way that it brings me together with people.

I have blogged about my love for coffee and how it is a social event for me.  I have explained how I feel like coffee brings people together and can create a depth in conversation that a glass of water cannot.  And I have detailed that when I get sad, sometimes I drink shots of espresso.

So, this year for Lent I decided to give up coffee.  But, in true Shanna fashion, I sorted out the details of my lent after lent began.  So I originally decided to give up coffee, and then in an attempt to not let myself fill my coffee void with anything else I decided that I was going to give up all beverages except water and juice/smoothies.

Wednesday, March 5th was the first day of Lent.  At about 11am I had to turn out the lights in our office because they were hurting my brain.  By 3 I was sitting in a dark office, with the shades closed, and my computer turned down to the lowest setting.  This was the beginning of my caffeine headache.  However, at 10am and noon and 3pm for my breaks I just closed my eyes and prayed for my youth girls that I would be seeing that night.

The next day, I couldn’t go into work, I stayed home and slept until 4:30 hoping that my headache would go away and praying every time I woke up for a few minutes to toss and turn.  You should know, I get headaches like once a year, and when I do they don’t affect the quality of my life at all.  This is the most intense headache I have ever felt in my life.

By Friday, my head was still a bit sore but I was able to go about doing life again.  It has been 2 and a half weeks now, and I am no longer physically affected by the absence of coffee in my life.  However, because I genuinely love the taste of coffee I still crave it from time to time.  But I don’t miss it enough that it reminds me to pray.  It’s like, “oh hey I want coffee right now. oh right, back to this email I was working on.”

So, technically with Lent, you are allowed to skip on Sundays.  Lent is 40 days, 6 days a week until Easter Sunday.  However, I had not been drinking coffee on Sundays because I didn’t want to feel the pain that would ensue the next day from not having caffeine in my system again.

On St. Paddy’s day (my favorite day of the year, excluding my birthday) I decided to pause on my Lent.  I had an Americano at noon and later that afternoon could be found spinning in my computer chair and talking at a mile a minute.  And then I noticed something that hadn’t happened at all in the 2 weeks prior while I wasn’t drinking coffee.  I was talking to someone and they told me I needed to calm down.

People tell me I need to calm down all the time.  I am known for how fast I talk and sometimes I talk so fast that I can hear my words slurring together into one big word and I can’t even stop myself.  Sometimes I talk so fast that I skip over entire words in a sentence.  And for a majority of my life I have been told that I am too hyper or too excited or too loud or I need to calm down or slow down.  And I’m gonna be honest, although I usually smile and keep on doing whatever I’m doing, it kind of hurts my feelings a bit.

So, when someone said this to me after I had a cup of coffee, I realized that I am legitimately affected by my caffeine intake.  I just never noticed it because I never don’t drink coffee.  And maybe not drinking coffee makes me act more my age than I’m used to.

I always see people who are my age and feel like they are just way more composed and calmer than I am, they always seem so serious and talk about politics.  And although it’s probably good to act that way sometimes, I kind of like that I am still able to be excited by small things and get crazy and embarrass myself from time to time.  And I LOVE that I can laugh at anything.  I love laughing, more than I love coffee if you can believe it.  And my world would be very dreary if I was only allowed to laugh as much as the average late 20’s person.

You may say, “why would you want to drink coffee again if not drinking it makes you a normal person?”  Here’s the thing, I’m not normal.  Also, 90% of the time, people appreciate my ridiculousness and enthusiasm.  But the REAL reason I will continue to drink coffee is because I love it, and more importantly I love who God created me to be and how when I drink coffee I feel closer to him, closer to others, and more confident in who he has made me.

So, I miss coffee, and I could always go for a cup even if it is decaf.  But my missing coffee has stopped making me dependent on Jesus, and I am at a stage where I could go on and be completely unfazed.  So, I am starting to think that maybe rather than practicing Lent and spending 40 consecutive days empathetically fasting from something, it would be more beneficial for my relationship with Jesus to fast from my addiction 1 day at a time, for 40 days, spread out over a year.

In doing this, I will have those horrifying moments of withdrawl where I am physically unable to do anything other than pray, but every time I do it I will actually feel its absence.

Also, I am a verbal processor.  It is literally impossible for me to go 40 days without telling someone what I am doing.  In keeping my fast to random days over the year I can actually fast correctly.  I will be able to fast from something and the chances of me actually discussing it with someone are much less.

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I am one of those people who tells someone that I’m fasting while being authentic in a conversation, and then immediately regrets it because I don’t want anyone to know.  However it is very difficult for me to practice something so significant and not share how it is affecting me with someone.

Although it may not make any sense to anybody else, coffee is totally a spiritual thing for me.  I feel like it’s mine and God’s time together in the morning.  My first cup of coffee is usually consumed quite slowly while I sit on the edge of my bed and wake up for 20 minutes.  This is probably the only time of any day that my mind is not running 100 miles a minute.  It is the only time during the day that I can just sit with Jesus and not be riddled with anxiety about what may or may not happen in the next 24 hours.

If I just drink coffee in the morning, I will be awake.  But if I drink coffee and talk to Jesus, it centers me, it sets my life back on track.  Not every cup of coffee I drink focuses me on Jesus, but it should.  Maybe instead of trying so hard to cut something out of my life, I should refocus myself to add something into my life.  I have made lent a ritual, a rule that I need to follow to get my holy points.  But Jesus didn’t die so I could follow a rule.  He died so every morning we could sit together for a little while and he could wake my soul so that I may go out and glorify him.

Encouraging great things in people

When I became a Christian back when I was 14 I spent a majority of my time with mentors.  When I left home and traveled across the continent I spent a majority of my time with other girls in my unit who encouraged me in my faith, and my new Canadian mentors.

Part of my schooling was an 8 month internship overseas, and I felt God calling me to Ireland.  Part of my internship was that I was required to have a mentor that I met with weekly.  Before I left I started freaking out.  What if my mentor wasn’t nice?  What if my mentor didn’t like me?  Most importantly, what if my mentor didn’t have a sense of humor?

I prayed about it, a lot.  All of my mentors in the past had been women about 10 years older than me who were married with young kids.  So I started praying for the perfect mentor for me, and I definitely got it.  I got to Ireland and was met by a woman named Stacey, who was 10 years older than me, and who had 2 sons who were 5 and 7.

I remember that first day, I was wearing these shorts I bought from Walmart.  I went to throw something away, missed the garbage can, and when I bent down to pick it up my shorts ripped.  I don’t mean like, “oops, there’s a tiny hole in my pants that no one will notice.”  I mean like, a slit 6 inches long, all the way down the back.

Not knowing Stacey and her family, I was mortified.  So, I stood with my back to the wall until Ethan (her son) walked out of the room and I RAN to my suitcase and grabbed a new pair of shorts to change into.

There were tons of other embarrassing moments that happened while I was in Ireland, like that one time I got locked in the bathroom for 2 hours under the stairs.  And now, I can tell Stacey this story about my mortifying short rip and we can laugh about it.

When you have a mentor, you observe them and learn from them.  I learned a lot from Stacey, and she seriously saved me multiple times as I was at the edge of my breaking point, missing home and wondering what the heck God was doing with my life.  But there is one memory that I always think of when I think of Stacey.

Stacey’s sons are really creative and energetic.  Her one son, Ethan, is a total artist.  He’s one of those kids that could scribble on a piece of paper or pick up a toilet paper roll and make something totally creative out of it.  My most memorable image of Stacey was when her son Ethan came out with some of his legos built into some big thing and he was like, “look mom!  It’s a….” (I can’t remember what it was, but that’s not what this memory is about anyway.)  But Ethan showed Stacey something and Stacey just responded with, “THAT’S SO COOL!” And started giggling with her son as he demonstrated it all for her.

Kids love getting our attention, everyone loves getting attention to an extent.  And every week I would meet with Stacey and I would tell her a billion “Shanna Stories” and she would listen intently to every one of them.  I’ve been writing blogs for a while now, and I have a few dedicated followers, Stacey is one of them.  Despite how tedious, meaningless, funny, or great my blogs may be, she always reads them and tells me that she loves them.

She messaged me one time after I wrote some really long blog and gave me some advice.  She advised I work on making my paragraphs a bit shorter so that they are more broken up ad easier to read (which I have been trying to do ever since).  But after she wrote that she said “I’ll read your blog posts no matter how long or short or paragraphy or not they are. That’s a promise too!”

Stacey is so supportive of everyone around her, engaging their creativity and letting them know that they are really great at something.  That’s one of the main things I learned from her while on my internship; to encourage great things in people, and to celebrate accomplishments regardless of how small they may seem.  Don’t just apathetically show your excitement, but show your full support, excitement, and appreciation for those around you (especially kids).

Stacey is also pretty creative herself.  She is a writer (www.staceycovell.com).  And she is doing this really cool thing called “Conversations Reconstructed.”  She’s reconstructed iconic poetry, matched it with visual art and is presenting it at an art exhibition in Dublin this April.  I am super pumped for her to do this, and may have looked into flights to Dublin this April on more than one occasion (If they weren’t so dang expensive!).

To give you a bit of an idea, this came from her website:

“I’ve always been fascinated with the question: “What if?”  What if we did that another way? What if something we valued suddenly became something of no value or vice versa? What if the same words could tell a totally different story?

Several months ago, under the dark of night, a ‘what if’ conversation led to an idea…What if I could take apart stories and rebuild them to tell completely different ones? This led to an experiment…which repeated itself several times over…leading to countless conversations…which turned into bigger and bigger things…until it became…Conversations|Reconstructed.”

If you want to find out more about it, and support Stacey in this endeavor you can do so at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/conversations-reconstructed

A confidence you can back up

I have wanted a juicer for a while now.  I am the WORST at eating my vegetables, I mean, if they are prepared and sitting in front of me I’ll snack on them, but I have a hard time making sure I get a daily dosage of spinach, ya know?  So I thought a juicer would be a brilliant idea, mostly because of my childish love of drinking juice.

I have held off on this plan, mostly because I didn’t want to pay the $150 for a juicer and also, I don’t really have anywhere to put it.  Well, alas! I have finally found the day to buy a juicer!  I got it for a whopping $8.50 at the local thrift store and it works great!

In classic Shanna fashion, I immediately went out and bought $30 of produce to juice.  I came home, spent a good 2 hours juicing it all and felt very accomplished as I put 5- one liter mason jars in the fridge containing my first juice.  I had a brilliant plan to get all of my nutrients into my system this week.  I was going to drink a glass of juice a day along with the rest of my meals.

And then my sister was like, “I dare you to do a juice detox” and I was like, “Ok, why not?”

In theory, this wasn’t such a terrible idea, except the fact that I wasn’t really all that committed to it, I was mostly just doing it for funzies.

So, when dinner time rolled around and I had only drank juice all day, I found myself getting incredibly hangry (so hungry you get angry).  I wasn’t fully invested in this plan, and when someone said, “I don’t think you need to do a detox” I was like, “ok…”  When someone else questioned, “So, what exactly are you detoxing from?” I threw all my care to the wind as I realized I didn’t even know my own motives for this plan.  And that’s how I broke my juice detox.

But, here’s the kicker.  I love juice.  Now, I have had so much juice in the last day that I would be happy not drinking juice for the next month.

It’s kind of like being a vegetarian.  If someone doesn’t actually have a solid confidence in their reasons for being a vegetarian, when someone questions them they’ll just be like, “GIVE ME ALL THE CHICKEN AND BEEF THAT YOU HAVE!” (At least that’s what they’d be like if they were anything like me.)

Confidence can be a pretty attractive trait in a person if it’s a got the right balance of humility mixed in there.  But false confidence can be really awful.  If I don’t have a good reason for what I’m doing, then why am I doing it?  I mean, if I want to be a vegetarian because I like vegetables then I’m not gonna care when someone gets on my case and tells me all their arguments against vegetarianism. (side note: I’m not a vegetarian)  Because without fail, there is always someone who questions your judgement, but it doesn’t matter if you can back it up.

Sometimes I can be overly confident in things. I think it’s funny to use it as a joke, ya know, be overly confident in the wrong answer and give my housemates a hard time.  But sometimes I catch myself being overly confident in things I shouldn’t be overly confident in and then I feel awful.

People will compliment me on something and sometimes I’ll hear those words and be like, ya know what, you’re right!  And suddenly I think I am the funniest, most awesome person at life.  And, honestly, it makes me a little sick, when I look at myself in the mirror and just think about me.  Because I’m not all that great.  And at the end of the day, I know what goes through my head and I know I am not the most wonderful person.

I know I can be self deprecating, but does it count as being self deprecating if it’s true?

Here’s the thing, if I’m funny in life, but my highest purpose isn’t glorifying Jesus, then my sense of humor can quickly turn irritating and offensive.  I get annoyed with myself!  But, when my highest purpose in life is to glorify Jesus, and I am remembering that and practicing it, then I’m not seeking for the approval of others and in that my humor doesn’t have to go to far.

When I forget Jesus, I am living for the glory of myself, that means my worth depends on what other people think about me.  I end up getting proud, and pride is such an ugly trait, it makes me feel like Gollum.

I recently went through a period of time where *a lot* of people told me I was funny.  It was like the one word anyone used to describe me.  It stands out so much to me because the first time someone said it, I felt like it was a negative trait.  As they used this word to describe me (instead of any other word that I could have hoped for), they managed to rephrase it FOUR times.  They didn’t just say I was funny, they said I was the most hilarious person they know and I make them laugh harder than anyone, and they love being around me for my sense of humor.  They didn’t say I was beautiful or genuine or kind or gracious, they said I was funny. Four. Different. Ways.

After that it seemed like it was the only thing anyone could say about me.  Yeah I guess there could be worse, but getting all of my worth out of what people thought of me meant that being funny is All. I.  Am.  I am JUST funny.  And that is actually quite depressing.

That’s probably why the Bible points out over and over and over and over again that our worth is found in our identity in Christ.  Because, without Christ we are just -meh.

Being confident in myself because I have a bold sense of humor, puts a gross taste in my mouth.  Using my humor to glorify God, now that’s something to be confident in.  That’s when the gifts God has given me can be used to change lives.

There is a peace in being who God created us to be, and embracing that.  If God made me in such a way that I am JUST funny, then I am going to use that gift to the best of my ability to point to him.  But I believe that God gave me many more gifts than just a sense of humor and when I find my identity in him I can see that and be confident in that.  I can be confident in what he is doing, cause it’s not about me, it’s all about him.