Wow. I have so much to say about the past couple years, but I hardly know where to start. The more I think about it, I realize that I haven’t written much about my Canadian experience on this blog, and I don’t mean traveling – I’ve written plenty about that. I mean the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of this journey. How the past 2-and-a-half years have challenged me, pushed me, strengthened me, and rewarded me. There’s a lot to say, and this post is gonna be long, so pull up a chair and get comfortable. I think I’ll start at the beginning, which I’ve heard is a very good place to start.
It all began in the summer of 2016 – shortly before my 13th birthday – when I found out there was a strong possibility that my family and I would be moving to Toronto, Canada for a few years. I remember being shocked and upset at the initial idea, but then again, who wouldn’t be? Leaving my friends and relatives to move to a different country was definitely not something I wanted, and I remember practically begging God to let me stay in Missouri. I wanted to be in my “safe zone” – I had been living in Missouri for over 8 years, and everything I knew was familiar and comfortable. I was scared, and didn’t want to be stretched outside my comfort zone. However, it soon became clear that God had other plans for me.
Lesson 1: No one ever got anywhere by staying in their comfort zone. We need to be willing to stretch beyond our limits – even if it’s hard – in order to grow.
If we’re waiting until the fear and feelings of inadequacy go away, we’ll never venture outside of our comfort zones. Until we take a step in spite of our fears, none of us will ever truly be able to do hard things. If we want to continue to grow and learn for the rest of our lives, we must beat these fears – not by making them go away, but by recognizing that there is something worse than discomfort, worse than the unknown, worse than failure. The worst thing is to never try at all.
– Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris
Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
A lot happened over the next several months. The move was confirmed, friends and family were informed, and we began preparing to leave. The weeks leading up to the move are some of the most bittersweet I’ve ever experienced. My friends and I were having an absolute blast in 7th grade – loving every minute of our weekly co-op classes, going to youth group on Wednesday nights, rehearsing for a play, and doing other activities together throughout the week. Even though I was enjoying soaking up those final months, a huge cloud seemed to be hanging over everything I did – reminding me that those fun times would soon come to an end. Not a permanent end, but still a very long pause.
When the moving week finally arrived in April of 2017, I wasn’t ready. I don’t think I could have ever been ready, either. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to experience. I vividly remember saying tear-filled goodbyes to my closest friends, watching the contents of our house being loaded onto a truck, spending one last night in my empty room, saying another tear-filled goodbye to my grandparents, and driving away from my home of 6 years. I remember the 16-hour, 1,039 mile road-trip north. I remember crossing the border and waiting in the customs office for what felt like forever. I remember pulling into the driveway of our new house and feeling tired and numb. I remember going to sleep that first night in an empty and unfamiliar house, wondering what the future would hold.
That first summer was hard. Really hard. But looking back, I can clearly see that I was adding to my misery without even realizing. I thought all the feelings of sadness, bitterness, anger, and fear I was experiencing were a natural response to my situation, and yeah, they were, but I was making it much worse than it had to be. Instead of making an effort to be thankful for the things I had, I was focusing almost entirely on what I didn’t have anymore. Instead of trying to meet and connect with new kids, I was wishing I was with my best friends whom I had left behind. Instead of looking forward to exploring this new place, I was constantly searching for opportunities to visit Missouri. I didn’t understand why God had taken me away from everything I knew and deeply loved. I was living in my past, and refusing to embrace the future He had planned for me with an open mind and a thankful heart.
Lesson 2: No matter how much we want to, we can’t change what God has planned for us, so do your best to embrace your circumstances as a chance to learn and grow. When you drive a car, you’re not focusing on the road behind you, but the road ahead of you. I know it’s hard, but we need to stop living in our pasts and focus on the future that God has planned for us, and be thankful even when it’s not what we wanted or expected. Remember – even if it doesn’t feel like it now, His plan for you is divine and absolutely perfect.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
– Corrie ten Boom
That was the summer I started my blog, and I began it as a way to share my traveling experiences with my friends and family back home. Even though I didn’t post much, writing my blog did help me finally realize that I was in Canada, doing and seeing things I otherwise may never have gotten to do. Even so, it was still very difficult for me to be thankful for my situation.
I turned 14 just as I was preparing to go into 8th grade, or as Canadians would say, “grade 8.” We had found a homeschool co-op very similar to the one we had left in Missouri, so we decided to register with them. I have reflected on that school year a lot since then. It was very difficult for me in many ways, and not just academically. There were several personal challenges I had to face, and they took a lot of patience, perseverance, and strength to overcome. I was stretched a lot, but looking back I realize that I grew a lot, too. I learned so many valuable life-lessons through my personal experiences during this time, and I will carry them with me for the rest of my life.
Lesson 3: In order to grow in character and strength, we need to have the patience and perseverance to endure being stretched – even if it’s painful. It will definitely be worth it later.
I was rewarded for my perseverance in the 9th grade – my first year of high school was an answered prayer and absolute blessing. I was in a class with 4 other amazing girls, and we studied some awesome stuff. We had some great times and made so many amazing memories that I will cherish forever. God truly blessed me by putting these girls into my life and allowing us to grow closer. I also began to take my blog much more seriously around this time. (I was even able to meet a blogging friend in person – love ya, Jo!) It was still an academically challenging year (we read books like The Iliad and The Odyssey, for example), but very rewarding in so many ways. I also grew much closer in my relationship with God that year, and my character was strengthened even more.
Lesson 4: God will bless you, and things will get better. All it takes is perseverance, prayer, and patience.
Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
I believe that God brought me to Canada for several reasons, and some probably still remain to be seen. However, the ones that have been shown to me make perfect sense. I have seen from first-hand experience that He is holding this world in His hands, and guiding each of us down our own individual paths of life that He has planned especially for us. Jeremiah 29:11 has a whole new meaning for me now.
Now that over 2 years have passed and I only have 1 week left in Canada before I move back to Missouri, I am beginning to reflect a lot on the time I have spent here and the lessons I’ve learned. I have grown so much during this time in my life, and it’s hard to believe that this incredible adventure is almost over. I will carry the memories I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned for the rest of my life, and the country of Canada will always have a very special place in my heart.
I hope this account of my experience in Canada has been encouraging to you, and if there’s one thing I want you to take away, let it be this:
Lesson 5: Even if you don’t understand why your life is going the way that it is, or why God is leading you down a challenging path, just know that He is with you every step of the way. He won’t give you any challenges that you can’t face alone – with God, all things are possible.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”