Boston Shenanigans – Remember that time when?

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So I have this friend that just came out with a new album this year that is signawesome. Ok, so we’re not really friends, but we’ve been with him from the beginning. There was even a time that I and two friends traveled 8 hours across the border to see him as an opening act. And this my friends, is that tale.

You know that moment when you hear a song and you can picture events of your life playing out to this song/artist in a cinematic masterpiece? This is how I felt when I discovered Ben Rector’s music.

It all started with an email my friend Bethany received from Ben Rector himself….ok so it was to his whole email distribution list and not to her directly. For those of you who don’t know who Ben Rector is, I encourage you to look him up – incredible talent, moving lyrics, and he wears bowties. What’s not to love? In this email he announced his tour with the band Needtobreathe. This marked the beginning of an amazing journey for 3 Atlantic Canadians to the exotic city of Boston, Massachusetts.

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Our group was made up of myself; the driver and probably loudest music enthusiast of the group, Bethany; the navigator and ultimate discoverer of the music that inspired the trip, and Kate; the overnight shifter and therefore backseat sleeper. We were a gallant group.

First stop: the border. The border people didn’t know who Ben Rector or Needtobreathe were and therefore gave us interesting looks. We passed through with flying colors, and were on our way.

The rest of the trip down was relatively uneventful – as sleeping beauty slept in the back, Bethany and I listened to some pre-concert Ben Rector and Needtobreathe, naturally. We also talked about religion, politics, and other light road trip conversations.

We stopped off at our hotel for two nights which was outside of Boston, in a town called Dedham. It was a lovely hotel, with a great bellman named George. He taught us everything we needed to know about the shopping center and most importantly, how to get around a giant city. We were handed loads of pamphlets.house of blues

The documentary making had begun and we were off. Boston wasn’t ready for us but we were ready for Boston. Shopping was good. Food was good. Company was better. And then the main event of trip – the Needtobreathe/Ben Rector concert.

We made our way to the Boston House of Blues far too early to be sure we would be first in line. It was there that we saw a tour van. And it was from there that we proceeded to stalk the van, all the while my video camera was recording. I’m pretty sure we caught a glimpse of one of the drummers. What a thrill!

We were finally let into the venue, stood for what seemed like years and then began one of the best concerts I had ever been to. “There’s no pain when your feet start movin’!” Ben was fabulous. And we had severely underestimated Needtobreathe.

benA highlight of the day was getting to meet Ben after the show. We gathered around the merchandise table, bought t-shirts intended for Ben to sign. When we finally met him, his bowtie wooed us and we told him how we traveled from Canada to see him. I think he was moved.

So many memories were made in that delightful city, and I’ll post a few more in video form in due time! The main thing I took away from that trip was that wonderful friends and captivating music is a winning combination. And in closing, we put our trust in Mildred, our affectionately named GPS to get us out of the city and on our way home. Someday we will return and it will be just as magnificent.

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The best day of 2013

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I figured I’d better post this before 2013 is over…so here goes!

So, there was that one time when I, along with a friend, were interviewed on our favorite podcast that reached something like 100,000 people. So yeah. I’m tooting my own horn here. And I’m fine with it.

You dream. You hope. You aspire. You head into the new year hoping a few of your dreams will come true, your hopes will be accomplished, and your aspirations will be realized. I didn’t think so much awesome could happen for me in the first week of 2013. But then I got this tweet:

So here’s the back story – my friend Betty and I spent far too much time and thought creating what we thought were hilarious audio/video podcasts for our friend who was in Brazil doing mission work. This was around Christmas time, and we knew that she would be missing the festivities…so we wanted to send her Christmas greetings. Betty, the brilliant lyricist that she is, wrote new lyrics to the tune of “The Holly and the Ivy” and naturally we used our favorite instruments to create “The Ukulele and the Slide Whistle”. It was so fun creating the video and we really just thought it would be a nice quirky way to say Merry Christmas to our friend.

Well, here’ the back back story. Relevant Magazine is my favorite magazine in the entire world. What they do is amazing. They put out a podcast every week that is absolutely hilarious and one of their podcasters makes lots of dry jokes and even puns from time to time. He started bringing his slide whistle to the recording of the podcast, making the whistle sound at the end of a bad joke. So, in honor of this awesome resurgence of the slide whistle into our lives, Betty bought us a few to use, you know, in every day life.

So we tweeted our video at the Relevant podcast since they were a bit of an inspiration. They tweeted back, and wanted to interview us. And they did.

But of course, since I’ve taken so long to write this silly post, much has happened. I received a tweet from a guy who liked our song so much, that he actually made it his ringtone. I’ve also had a number of people from work find this little gem which obviously makes for some sweet “water cooler” talk. All in all, ’twas a great song written for a great friend; turning into a great day in early 2013.

The podcast link is below!

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/podcast/sugar-hi-lows-performs-live

Living an intentional life

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I am blessed.

When I returned from India last summer, I easily went back to my routine and found comfort in my usual activities. Family. Friends. Church. TV. Twitter. It felt strange for the first few days, then my life pulled me right back in. I can’t say whether I’m comfortable stepping back into my life…even almost a year later. I find there is a constant tug of war in my heart in which the side of living for myself often wins.

IndiaMy eyes saw. And my heart remembers. But my intentions are sometimes forgotten.

I experienced a few new things while my best friend was doing mission work in Brazil this past fall. I felt the kind of pride I would imagine a parent to feel for a child who is being awesome. I found myself longing to live beyond my scheduled 9-5 days.

Then I would skype with my roomie/best friend and I felt a combination of fulfillment and yearning. She did an amazing job of communicating the work that was being done there and I felt like I was a part of those stories. But I wondered if that was enough for me.

You know what I worry about right now? It comes down to my weird thinking. Does the world really need another writer? Another worship leader? Another 20-something who keeps a blog and says she wants to get out of the city she’s been in and save the world but also feels like she could be in the right place, doing meaningful work, right now? Another journalism major who doesn’t want to be a reporter but holds onto the feeling that getting a journalism degree was still a good idea?

I love missions and I love loving people. And I know that I can do that here. I just don’t want to waste the now. So for now, I fill my life with activities, plans, happenings that bring me joy and make me feel inspired. This is being intentional. This is how I want to live out love in my life; not through regret of not doing more, but rather through courage to do as much as I can.

2012: The sun’s going to rise over you and me

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Looking back on a year can leave me feeling like I missed something, like there are too many things that passed me by. I’m at the point in my life when I’m constantly thinking of the mark I’m leaving on this world. Have I given enough? Did I love enough? Did I make a difference? Sometimes I just want to say, WAIT. STOP.

“I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around
And, see what there is to see
And time is just a melody…”

Last year was a blur of adventure, new things, and great experiences that seemed to flash by me. It marked the reinvention of my blog, and what I felt was the beginning of the “real grown-up job” phase of my life. I had lots of ups and downs, but most notably some great “ups”, she said with a smile.

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Smartest decision: To take my vacation time to go to India.

Regret: I didn’t finish writing my book.

Commitment: Deciding to lead the youth band at my church. They are an amazing and hilarious group and I’ve learned so much!

Blessing: Seeing my best friend commit to doing mission work in Brazil, and reading/watching/weeping at the stories that changed her life and the lives of the people she encountered.

Accomplishment: Asking some great questions, saying yes to crazy opportunities, and taking on the challenge of being a journalist on another continent.

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Highlight: Experiencing some amazing live music. I traveled to see Ben Rector and Needtobreathe with a few friends and it was definitely the best concert I have ever been to. We also got to meet Ben, and got a picture. He was wearing a bow tie. Best day ever.

Risk:  Deciding to stay in my current city despite knowing that the contract at my job was ending.

Defining Moments:

-The moment an article I wrote was published on a fantastic publishing company’s website.

-The moment I stepped off a plane in India, was immersed in a bright culture for two weeks, and realized that for the first time in my life, my writing had a purpose on a global scale.

-The moment I helped pick out an engagement ring for my beautiful sister, and four months later, saw her marry a wonderful man.

I’ve taken hold of opportunities I never thought would happen, and I’ve felt more deeply about issues I never thought could affect my world. The mindset of this generation is so focused on the individual, on making sure you’re doing what’s right for you. When you graduate from university, you need to choose a career that will make you money, make you happy. When you start making that money, you have to invest it, spend it, love it. The more I’m in the business world and this culture, the more I realize how much of my day-to-day life is completely about me. And I think to myself, why doesn’t that bother me more? I haven’t written this as a guilt trip; not for you, and not for myself. I just want to take a moment to rewind, refocus, and re-inspire.

I hope my 2013 will be less about accomplishments and more about living. I hope to:

Read more. Laugh more. Write more. Adventure more. Sing more. Give more. Love more.

Here’s to you, my Jesus

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It was the international day of prayer for the persecuted church (IDOP). The musical instruments lay dormant on the stage in quiet solidarity, as the worship team led the congregation in singing.

Bless the Lord oh my soul. Oh my soul.

Worship His holy name.
We prayed for the persecuted church. A giant bible stood on stage, wrapped in chains. We prayed some more.

Statistics. Feelings. Stories. More prayer.

It was a moving service; deeply routed in prayer. I think however, that we forget these convictions within months, days, hours, and even minutes. Perhaps we think that since we spent more than 10 minutes in prayer, the ball is in God’s court now. We’ve done our part; given some money, prayed heartfelt prayers, and talked about how we should, could, and will do more. But this isn’t one of those kinds of posts…The fact is, there are always people hurting. And we can always do more.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” -Mother Teresa

I want this post to focus on how we interact with each other here at home despite our freedom of religion.

It was time for communion. As I was about to feel blessed and convicted for such a gift as to be able to celebrate the Lord’s supper in public, with my family of believers, I overheard something that halted my thoughts. We walked over to the communion table at the back of the church and I heard a faint melody.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

That saved a wretch like me.

It was His church; a beautiful, bruised, and joyful church. I’m not trying to compare the life threatening circumstances of underground churches to any social persecution suffered in North America. I would however, like to isolate the word “persecuted” and think about what that meant Biblically and what that can mean in our circumstances. I immediately think of Paul and Silas, and those who were chained, stoned, and beaten for their faith. They were considered outcasts, they were minorities, and they were human.

Churches often say they would welcome anyone who came through their doors. But how often is that a reality? How many times have you actually welcomed someone “different” into your congregation; without hesitation, without judgement, without persecution however silent it may be?

The beautiful melody I was hearing was coming from a group of people who have probably felt a silent social persecution at some point in their lives. They sit at the back of the church and are sometimes noisy. They sometimes sleep during the sermon. They are noticed but often overlooked. They live in a group home for adults with special needs. And they are precious to Him.

As the music floated to me, I searched out where it was coming from. A semi circle had formed with a few people from the group home, and one other member of the church. They were asking her to sing the song again.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.

I watched in quiet fascination as I waited to receive communion; tears lingering in my eyes. In this moment I did not feel sorry for them, I did not want a different life for them; for they don’t need such things. In this moment I appreciated their ability to be completely open and surrendered to God. They had already received communion and when they finished another verse, one woman raised her tiny cup and said something that will not soon leave my mind.

“Here’s to you, my Jesus”

Here’s to you, my Jesus. Here’s to your church around the world and here at home. I hope our inclination turns away from pity and into an abundant and genuine love. Just love; with open eyes and humble hearts.

What am I listening to this Christmas, you may ask?

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I’ve had a few people ask me what Christmas music I’m listening to this season…well here’s my short list of favorite songs I’ve had on repeat! Most of these artists have their own Christmas albums, and are all amazing. #stampofapproval

Joy to the World – Andrew Ripp

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – Casting Crowns

Merry, Merry Christmas Everyone – Jon McLaughlin

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow – Chicago

While You Were Sleeping – Casting Crowns

O come, All ye Faithful – Matthew West

Go Tell it on the Mountain – Seabird

In the Bleak Midwinter – Kinfolk 9

Jingle Bells – Ben Rector

What Child is This? – Seabird

What Christmas Means to Me – Hanson

Carol of the Bells – Pentatonix

Merry Christmas Baby – Hanson

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly – Vocal Point

Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald

Very Merry Christmas – Dave Barnes

This Christmas – Pentatonix

What Christmas songs are YOU enjoying this year?

Conversations you have when no one’s looking

I’m going to draw you a mind picture. You’re welcome in advance…

It’s 2 in the morning. I have just fallen soundly asleep. But something startles me awake. I look to the doorway of my bedroom, all squinty-eyed and confused. Then it hits me. There is a tall figure standing there, probably staring back at me into my soul. I squint some more. My breaths are quicker and laced with fear. I make a fast decision. Reach for the lamp, Liz. Do it now before he gets you! In what could only be described as ninja-like movements, I reached for the lamp, grabbed my glasses, and stared at the door. No one there. Well now Liz, you’ve got yourself all worked up for nothing. See, no one there. Silly eyes. Even though my voice of reason was rejoicing, I could not lay back down. I went to the door, out into the hallway. I proceed to turn on every light in the house, check every closet and re-lock all the doors. You’re ridiculous.

It’s been almost a month since my roommate left. And it feels much more like an empty nest rather than just one empty bedroom. My beautiful roommate of 4 years is now living in Brazil and will be there until January. Although 4 months is not a terribly long time, I’m still feeling the weirdness of solo living. The first week was a little rough, as you read above. I kept myself busy after work with reading and writing but I discovered a few things about myself as I would take a break from whatever I was doing to look around the quiet apartment deep in thought.

-I discovered that I cannot make the right amount of food for just one person. I always end up with an abundance of leftovers.

-I discovered that living alone makes me stay up later… then I discovered that it can also make me go to bed earlier. Apparently having no roomie to talk to late at night is both good and bad for my sleeping habits.

-I discovered that talking is not dependent on having someone to talk to. I talked to myself before, but never like this. I’m talking full blown conversations here. (And sometimes full blown musical conversations with myself) Answering my own questions. Asking rhetorical questions, giving myself a response, then chuckling to myself for responding out loud to a rhetorical question.

-I discovered that I’m my creative process’ own worst enemy. On days I have no commitments I come home from work and find myself doing all sorts of unproductive things.

So in these days of lonely, quiet apartment living I’m deciding to be productive and live out my time home from work with a purpose. I always say I’m a writer. And I am. But writing out my random thoughts on a blog is not the extent of my passion or vision. That complete vision is yet to be determined and I can only promise a string of self-aware blog posts to follow this one. Should be interesting, but I guess that’s up to me isn’t it?

Canadian living felt normal way too quickly

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Coconut stand

It is really incredible how easy it is to forget I was in India two months ago. Granted, I was only there for two weeks. But I still feel slightly guilty that I was able to settle into Canadian living so quickly. I’ve been told that it will come; that the reality of all I saw and felt will come crashing down on me soon. Until then, here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions when I returned home:

How was your trip?

-I love this question…especially if it is asked while passing in the hall or at church. It really is a loaded question. And if I’m in a talkative mood…watch out! You asked for it. My trip was amazing. It really was. It was all I thought it would be, and at the same time it was nothing like I thought it would be. I never thought I could learn so much in a language I didn’t understand.

Was it hot there?

-Was it hot….hahahaha…YES. Most of the time I felt like I was melting. If you know me well, you know that when I’m hot, my face turns

Thank goodness for photo editing…you can’t even tell that I look like I could be melting!

bright red and it stays that way for a good 5 hours. I think the people in India thought I had a deathly fever or something. Even though I assured them I would be fine, they would constantly usher me inside, out of the ‘funshine’ -which leads into the next question/statement.

You were in India for 2 weeks…you don’t look that tan?!

-I have a threefold answer. 1. The wonderful people I was traveling with were very concerned about their tiny tomato-red journalist and kept me inside a lot. 2. It was supposed to be monsoon season, so it was quite cloudy most days. 3. I applied sunscreen like I was basting a turkey; in generous portions and often.

What were the people like?

Church in a local village

-The Indian culture is colorful and vibrant. The streets are loud and the further outside of the city I ventured; the scarcity of toilets became an adventurous reality. Everyone I met was so respectful and welcoming. I discovered the more I smiled, the more smiles I saw back.

So what did you…do there, exactly?

-I went as a journalist with a Canadian missions organization. I visited many programs/churches/schools in order to speak to and interview people involved. The main purpose of my trip was to gain information/updates and see firsthand how these programs were affecting lives in India. The biggest job starts now, as I organize the information and interviews and put together stories to share with the Canadians that support these projects.

After my trip I jumped right back into my job here. So once I collect my thoughts, dive into my writing, and begin allowing myself to answer the question “So, what now?” I’ll hopefully be able to write another post about my experiences. Stay tuned :)