Horses, Parades, Birthdays, and Breakfasts

The family I am staying with in Calgary took me and the kids to Spruce Meadows Equestrian Park, where they do show jumping. It was such a neat difference to see horse culture in a different way other than the very popular western riding seen at the Stampede. It was very classy and proper, and reminded me very much of the British movies where they show rich families. They also had big time celebrations for the Queen’s jubilee.

The Stampede Parade is somewhat of a chaotic spectacle in Calgary, this year attracting more than 400,000 people. We didn’t want to brave the crowds, so we headed to the Mini-Stampede at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. In my opinion it was so much better, because it was short and there were no crowds to brave!

I got to experience my first Stampede Breakfast.  For 10 days during Stampede, places all around the city have free breakfasts! Isn’t that amazing?! They even have a website to help you find all of the breakfasts in the city. I had one at the lake in the family’s neighborhood, and at the church we go to.

The day before my birthday, the girls helped me to bake a lemon pound cake for birthday and hand-squeezed lemonade. Then I had my birthday when we had cut up sandwiches, veggies, fruit, and cake on Judith’s finest wedding china. Some family friends that I don’t know very well brought me cards, gifts, and flowers, so I felt very celebrated. Then the family took me out for dinner.

Then I took a weekend off and decided to go to Stampede with a friend on Saturday, for the 100th birthday celebration. We got there when the park opened so we could get grandstand tickets for the evening show. Then we wandered around the grounds and checked out the Agriculture exhibit, the animal stables, and met some of the RCMP horses and riders. The Grandstand show was amazing, featuring the Young Canadians performers and star guest Paul Brandt. For 15$, the tickets were well worth it! Then we watched the fireworks. This year the fireworks were a big deal because of the 100th anniversary. They had them at 5 different locations all over the city every night!

Canada Day in Sorrento BC

I got a really nice surprise when I found out that the family was invited to a friend’s cottage in Sorrento BC for the Canada Day long weekend. I’ve never had the opportunity to see any part of BC other than Vancouver, but longed to visit the beauty I’ve heard so much about. They said it would take at least 7 hours to get there, but I was so excited for the road trip because I absolutely love driving and looking at the sights outside my window. As we drove out of Calgary towards the mountains, I started to go picture crazy, snapping pictures of every mountain I saw. Well, I definitely got my fill of mountains: once we entered the mountains we never really left! It was truly amazing to see how the mountain range changed as we moved from Alberta to BC. I have to say my favorite part was when we started drive along the Shuswap Lake. It is this beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and it looks like heaven.

But as you can guess, with that kind of beauty are people who want to own part of it. A piece of land with just a view of the lake starts at 200 thousand! Predictably, there are a lot of wealthy people who have their second home out that way. The lady who we were staying with is actually a therapeutic clown at the children’s hospital in Calgary, which is how the family knows her. I’m guessing she must have done pretty well for herself as a clown to have a cottage our there 😉

My favorite part of my weekend was my morning runs. They were spectacular, running along farmers’ fields with horses grazing and mountains in the background ❤

Unfortunately, a lot of the areas surrounding Shuswap Lake are flooded due to the excessive amount of rain that the area has received over the last few weeks. We were not able to participate in any Canada Day celebrations, but we were perfectly fine with simply enjoying the evening at the cottage 🙂

Here are a few pictures from the weekend. The rest of the pictures of my 6 weeks spent with the family in Calgary can be viewed here

 

Anne of Rosebud Theatre

While I certainly love being in a new place with new surroundings, I sincerely miss my home of Halifax and Prince Edward Island. Alberta has amazing scenery that ranges from rolling prairies to rocky mountains. But to me, nothing compares to the ocean breezes and the simple beauty of the east coast. I feel that I have a special connection, having red hair and all, to PEI, whose own famous fictional celebrity shares the same hair color. To hear that for Keira’s 10th birthday party we would be heading to the small town of Rosebud, Alberta to see Anne of Green Gables the Musical at Rosebud Theatre I was so thrilled!

It was so nice to drive out of the city limits of Calgary through gorgeous rolling prairie landscape to get to our destination. Rosebud turned out to be a charming little town that seemed to be the perfect setting to show the story of an orphan who travels to Avonlea, PEI. The day started with a really lovely brunch buffet, with live musical entertainment as we ate. Then we strolled around the town for a bit before the show started. I’ve seen the original Anne musical in PEI, and this one compared very nicely. I would say the added bonus was seeing the cast bicycling home after. It was so nice that Keira and her friend were able to meet many of the cast, especially Anne herself. It was surprising to hear that the cast members had never been to PEI, and seemed thrilled to hear that I had such a close connection to the island. I hope that I convinced them that it is worth the trip out there, especially now that they have reenacted our most favorite story.

To see more pictures from my time in Calgary click here

Soccer, Sewing, and Hanging Out

Working with this family in Calgary is always so exciting because there is never a dull moment.

The first day I arrived, I got to watch Gus and Keira battle it out in a soccer match between parents and players. Gus just happens to be a soccer fanatic and the coach of the team so that made it extra special.

Marnie is a very special family friend who comes over once a week and does really fun activities with the girls. This week was extra fun because we got to make pillow cases and PJ bottoms. I just took an interest in sewing before I came here, so I was so eager to try my hand at actually making something. Pillow cases and PJ bottoms were actually quite easy to make (if you have the right gear and know how to follow a pattern). Luckily for me she had some great equipment and is an expert pattern follower and was willing to show me how it’s done. I think my next purchase (when I have money) will be a really good sewing machine and serger.

Keira had a sleep over that night (it was her birthday the next day!) so I got to take her and her friend Sarah to the park

City Hopping

So, I am in Calgary now. I moved from Halifax to Calgary within a span of 1 1/2 weeks. Crazy eh?

Two years ago I did the Impact mission in Calgary. While I was there, I worked for a family who had a teenage daughter with Guillain Barre Syndrome.  She was left with a pretty severe physical disability. My job was to help with the physical and occupational therapy that she was to do everyday. I would come to their home each day for 4 months to help with this rehabilitation program. It has been one of my favorite jobs because it combined kinesiological content with working intimately with a family.

About two weeks ago, I got a call from this family. I had sent them a news letter about what I was going to be up to this upcoming year with CCO. I mentioned that I would be support raising. She called to offer me a job withe their family for the next 6 weeks, where I can earn money towards my support raising but also can do some support raising at St. Patrick’s parish where I was stationed during Impact.

Our days are jam-packed with fun stories. I will try to update this more often. For now, here are some shots I took while I waited for them in the airport.

Map of Alberta and Calgary in the Calgary International Airport

White Hat volunteers at the Calgary International Airport

“We have cause to be uneasy”….Thoughts on ‘Mere Christianity’

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the most accessible and widely read works defending the rationality of the Christian faith. Originally published in 1952, and based on a series of talks broadcast over radio during World War II, Lewis makes a powerful case for the rightness of the Christian faith, both intellectually and morally. Mere Christianity seeks, as its title suggests, to present Christianity in its simplest and most cogent form. It takes an ecumenical approach in that it presents what Lewis regards as the central elements of the faith, rather than the Catholic interpretation or the Protestant interpretation, and so on.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I bought this book for my mom for Christmas 5 years ago when I worked at Chapters. This was a time before I was actively involved with my faith, but I had a conversation with a customer about the book and decided my (very faithful) mother would love it.

I spotted the book this past Easter when I went home for a visit and decided, with my new-found faith, that I would give it a shot and read it. The book is not a quick read, I’ve determined. It is meant to be taken slowly, with each of his rational arguments allowed time to marinate and sink in. I’m only 5 chapters in, but this past chapter I found very interesting and I would like to share some of what I read (mostly for myself, so I can figure out what he was saying!).

In earlier chapters, Lewis establishes that there is a “Moral Law” when he suggests that there is somebody or something from beyond our material universe that is getting at us. If you believe that the something behind this moral law is God, and you agree with the account given by Christianity and some other religions that God is ‘good’. Not ‘good’ in a way that he is soft, indulgent, or sympathetic; but ‘good’ in a way that is just.

Lewis then says that if we believe in this absolute goodness, then we are in a strange position. We are on His side and agree with the disapproval of human greed, trickery, and exploitation. But we are not on His side when it applies to us. We are making ourselves enemies of this goodness everyday when we fail to do ‘good’, but we aren’t any likely to do better tomorrow. As he puts it, “We can’t do with it and can’t do without it.” God is the only comfort of this , but he is also the thing to be most scared of: the thing we need the most and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only ally, and we make ourselves His enemies.

Now this is where, in his roundabout way, he comes to making a point about Christianity. Christianity tells people to repent and promises them that they will be forgiven. Christianity does not apply to people who do not know they have done anything wrong and do not feel that they need forgiveness. As Lewis puts it, “It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power being the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.” Christians offer an explanation of how we got to our present state of simultaneously loving and hating goodness. Of how God can be the impersonal force behind the Moral Law, yet also a Person. Christians tell you how the demands of this law, which we cannot possibly meet all the time, have been met on our behalf and God becomes a man to save man from the disapproval of God. Whew! Chew on that for a second. It makes so much sense. And I have 2 examples to illustrate.

This past semester, I led a faith study with 3 of my friends. At the end of the 6 week faith study, I asked the girls if they wanted to have a personal relationship with God. All but 1 said yes. After meeting with her one-on-one, she said that she didn’t want to go any deeper with God because she felt she was fine, right where she was. She felt she didn’t have any thing to learn from Christianity, that her parents raised her well enough and theirs were the only voice she needed to listen to right now. At first, I didn’t understand her reasoning.  But then, after reading Lewis’ description her reasoning made sense to me. Only when all the pieces of the puzzle align to we really come to believe that we need God.  She is just in a place right now that she does not feel that way.

The next example is myself. My first year here in Halifax I got involved with Catholic Christian Outreach and did a faith study with them. After coming back from the summer vacation of doing anything but acting Christian, I decided I didn’t want anything to do with God or CCO.  I was running away. Christianity had begun to talk to me. I knew I was doing things in my life that were not ‘good’, but I wanted to bury them and pretend they weren’t there. I figured that if I’m never going to be perfect,  why bother? But I came to believe, and still do, that Jesus (the Person) came and died for me  because I can’t stop messing up. He wants me in heaven with Him. How lovely.
Christianity is a thing of dismay, but also of unspeakable comfort.

The “Ultimate Relationship”

At the beginning of the Impact Mission’s 11-week program entitled “Courageous Catholic”, I wasn’t too keen on helping out. Courageous Catholic (CC) is an 11-week faith study for individuals who are actively involved with their parish. It offers practical training and inspiring teaching to engage them in the work of evangelization. It will equip them with powerful tools to be missionary in their sphere of influence. This will be done by teaching them about the church’s missionary identity, to help them identify opportunities for evangelization, and the practical tools to carry it out. The hope is that the course will act as a catalyst in transforming their ministry and inspiring them to bring others into the joy of knowing and loving God.

I was asked to help by being a small group leader. While the course sounded lovely and necessary for the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, I really had envisioned spending my Tuesday evening doing something other than chatting with older adults, most the same age or older than my mom and dad. I was actually quite bitter that I wasn’t going to be doing what I wanted to do.

I would say that my mind changed last Tuesday. I was at a table with 6 older ladies, probably close to or well into their 60’s. They were actually quite a pleasant group, and all seemed to ‘get’ the message that CCO was trying to convey – to bring others back into ‘the church’ through evangelization. I put ‘the church’ into quotations because I don’t literally mean the building, but into a relationship with Jesus and the rest of his followers, which often times leads individuals into the pews of an actual church. They all seemed quite depressed that they have adult children and young grandchildren that have no interest in church, with the youngsters not even know who God is. They were all at a loss, unable to think of a way to reach their kids. They turned to me, and asked how I got to be where I am now. I shared with them how when I was in my first year of university, I met someone from CCO and they invited me to take a faith study. Through the faith study, I learned clear and simply what the Gospel message was. I also met other people who were very interested in faith, but also in living out an authentic Christian life. I had never known people who were so genuinely interested in me, my story, the state of my heart, and encouraging me to be the best I could be. Needless to say, it was contagious and here I am 4 years later very actively involved in living out my faith.

They were all very interested in these faith studies I spoke of. I offered to tell them more about them, and if they were interested, I could teach them how to lead one. They all accepted, and on Tuesday night, 1 hour before CC started, we met and I shared with them how to teach the first lesson of the Discovery faith study. As I was with them, I was having very strong feelings that are hard to pin down. I was grateful that they were so open to learning, that they were so concerned for the spiritual welfare of their kids, and that I was helping them to think of new ways to reach out. Even though I haven’t been doing this ‘missionary’ thing for very long, the branches of my tree are starting to spread out. By equipping these ladies to share the message, who knows who’s lives may be touched through them? What an amazing thought, that one by one, people are learning how to reach out to people.

So…what is this Gospel message, and how simple is it? On Tuesday, we learned what it is.

  1. We (humans) are created for a relationship with God
  2. This relationship is broken through our failures, weaknesses, when we ‘miss the mark’ (aka, sin)
  3. This relationship is restored through Jesus
  4. We can choose to live with God at the centre of our lives and claim this restored relationship by admitting that we mess up sometimes

Man. Is that easy or what? To be Christian, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to admit that you aren’t, and choose to live in a way that you try to consult God in every action, decision, and thought that you make.

They learned how to share this very simple message through the Ultimate Relationship booklet.

The Ultimate Relationship (UR) booklet

3 Graduations!

Hey everyone,

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, it’s been pretty busy on my end! These last 2 weeks have been filled with university graduations, family, and a wedding (that post will come later).

So here we are: Josh, my little brother Brendan, and me! All with fresh degrees in hand!

Josh received the University Medal in Sociology. He also received First Class Distinction in Honours!

Brendan graduated from Commerce. He will be working towards getting his CA in the fall.

I graduated from Kinesiology with Honours. Yay!

The Patient Farmer

The other night when I was reading my bible, I came across this in Mark:

“And He said, ‘The Kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed upon the ground, and then continues sleeping an rising night and day while the seed sprouts  and grows and increases – he knows not how. The earth produces by itself – first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.’”– Mark 4:26-28

In other words, the farmer plants his seed in the ground and then continues on with his life, sleeping and rising. Eventually, the ground will produce the crop in its own. The farmer doesn’t know how or when the harvest will come, but he still goes about his life and his job. He is patient with his field and the seed he as sown until he receives the harvest.

Often, I get impatient, frustrated, and anxious waiting for my seed to grow. For example, I have sent out 20+ resumes over the last 2 months and still do not have a job. Another example is support-raising for my year with CCO. I have no idea how I will get 1500$/month in support.  I am continually asking God, “How are you going to make this work? When is it going to happen?” But maybe I am trying to make something happen that only God can make happen. I am hoping for a breakthrough and nothing seems to be working. Through reading this scripture, perhaps I can use the farmer as an example. A farmer never knows when exactly his crop will come in. He just goes about his daily business. He can do things to help his crops, such as enriching the soil, but leaves the rest up to faith that earth will produce something for him. I must learn to do the same. I will put the work in by putting out resumes and establishing contacts for my support-team, and I will try to be patient and trust that God will take care of the rest.

On a different topic….

The IMPACT! mission had their first Courageous Catholic (CC) session on Tuesday night. CC is an 11-week faith study for individuals who are actively involved with their parish. It offers practical training and inspiring teaching to engage them in the work of evangelization. It will equip them with powerful tools to be missionary in their sphere of influence. This will be done by teaching them about the church’s missionary identity, to help them identify opportunities for evangelization, and the practical tools to carry it out. The hope is that the course will act as a catalyst in transforming their ministry and inspiring them to bring others into the joy of knowing and loving God.

Impact 2012 – the Courageous Catholic group meeting at St. Agnes Church

We had over 50 members from 7 different parishes from all over the HRM!

Opening up the tackle box

Ever wonder how certain things bait us in? Perhaps you were watching a commercial about a big, delicious looking hamburger from McDonald’s and decided you just needed to have one. What about sports; did you ever have a coach who convinced you not to quit? Let’s think about famous positive role models like Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela. They have certain traits that are so attractive and inspire us. Maybe you can think of examples closer to home, of people who attract you into their lives. If you are a Christian, how did you come into your faith? I would bet that someone invited you in, and you were “baited” by something that you just couldn’t ignore.

We read in the Gospels that several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen by trade when Jesus walked into their lives (see Mark 1:16-20). You probably know how the story goes, Jesus asks them instead to become “Fishers of Men”. I think Jesus used these men very specifically to demonstrate an important model of evangelization. If you have ever been fishing, you know that there are about a million types of bait you can use to catch a fish. God has given all of us unique skills and talents that no one else possesses in exactly the same way that we do. God pleads with all of use to use these gifts to demonstrate through our lives, words, and actions the blessings of being one of His followers.  Entering my new journey in life as a missionary, it will be very exciting to see how my unique characteristics will be used to draw others into this wonderful, rich faith that I have come to know. Some people will respond to hearing about God, others might respond to seeing my actions that demonstrate His love and grace, and some might see the joy and peace I have in my life.All of these things can be used to draw people into the net of God’s love.

Every encounter offers a new way to go fishing 🙂