Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Walk The Walk

“Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.”
“Actions speak louder than Words”

These two phrases are as common as the changing leaves in autumn—and the sure denial we all live in when we attempt to remain stagnant in the beauty of fall, wishing the winter freeze would never creep in. We’ve heard them before, and with most things we deem familiar, their impact is often lost when we hear them.

Today, right in this very moment, I want you to stop and think about the two phrases; how they complement and challenge each other, and how they bring to life the ideals of people living out beautiful sentiments like a fairytale ending of ‘happily ever after.’

When I think of these phrases, I am reminded of how Christ followers are called to live a life like Jesus. It’s the impossible task, made accessible through grace. It’s something we cannot do, but are commissioned to strive to do in our actions of love and mercy, forgiveness and joy, passion and justice, and extending our undeserved grace to others. When you walk the walk, and allow your actions to speak louder than words, you are showcasing what is really in your heart— the hope being all those beautiful, Christ-like characteristics.

This year, I have decided to ‘walk the walk’, literally.

I have decided to take a cause I am passionate about, and not just write about it on my blog, or talk about it to people whose caring meter reads at every point from genuine interest to genuine indifference, but to stand up with a group of like-minded individuals and do something publicly to show where my heart truly lies—yearning to seek justice for the oppressed and see the captives be set free!

An organization I’ve come to know and love over the past year or so is the A21 campaign. Along with organizations I’ve been involved with like Not For Sale, the A21 campaign is working to end modern-day slavery. Their 4-P model address the core issues needed to end slavery today:
Prevention – Preventing human trafficking through awareness and education.
Protection – Protecting victims of human trafficking through restoration programs.
Prosecution – Pursuing justice by prosecuting human traffickers.
Partnership – Partnering with people just like you and me to fight for freedom together.

The goal of the A21 campaign is to abolish injustice in the 21st century.
I believe in this goal.
I will not be a slactivist and merely browse their website and follow them on Instagram.
I will take part in the Walk ForFreedom.

On October 17th, individuals passionate about ending modern-day slavery will join together to shed light on the 27 million men, women and children who are still in bondage. When we join forces in one single day, we not only catch the attention of our cities, but we combine our efforts to have a global impact.

Something as simple as walking together with a unified message can help change the world. The Walk For Freedom will have people literally ‘walking the walk’ and allowing their actions to speak louder than words. It’s such a simple task—join together and walk to raise awareness, educate those around us, and hopefully create more activists in the process. I’m so looking forward to participating in something with a simple message that can impact our entire global community—and participating right here in the world where I currently call ‘home’, Winnipeg.

To really get you thinking about this, I want to share with you a quote a friend shared with me. A very dear friend of mine recently attended a Propel Women conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The quote from founder Christine Caine was simple... she shared a fact.

“There are 27 million slaves in the world today.
There are over 2 billion Christians.”

Perhaps ‘walking the walk’ and ‘letting our actions speak louder than words’ is something we really need in internalize and recognize what it looks like to know we can directly impact the life of one of those people held captive today. Not even half of us need to do something—but we should all do more than is expected of us to truly try to live a life like Jesus.

I challenge you, take part in the Walk for Freedom, or even donate to my fundraising page. My goal is to raise $500 dollars. Donate what you can-- $2, $5, $50, $100. Regardless of your choice to donate or not, pray. Pray for those held in bondage to be set free, pray for those doing the capturing to change their ways and realize what they are doing is wrong, pray for the johns in your local city, pray for those who don’t see any other option, just pray for God to work in incredible ways.

While following a Joyce Meyer reading plan on the bible app on my phone, I remember reading one devotion, which I still think about this day. I read it on June 4th, 2012. Here is what it read:

One morning I was having my quiet time along with God, and I said to the Lord, “God, how can You stand seeing all the pain, starving children, human trafficking, genocide, injustice, degradation, poverty, in the world and not do something?”I didn’t say it as a complaint or because I was questioning His integrity, and I don’t even know that I was really expecting to get an answer, but I just asked Him.Immediately His answer came back: “I work through people. I’m waiting for My people to arise and do something”

It’s time.

It’s time for us a group of passionate individuals to arise and do something. To walk the walk and take action instead of being the slactivists we are more commonly known to be. It takes effort, commitment, and truly believing in something to take action for the world to see. Be someone who stands for what is right. Be someone who is answering the call of God to be one of His people working towards something positive in the world.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Clothing How To Guide

When I speak with people about ethical clothing, I am generally faced with two reactions:
#1 – *insert blank stare here*
#2 – various responses expressing how they have no idea what that even means, how it doesn’t make a difference, or how it’s not probable for the average person to do. These sentiments can also be bundled together under the blanket statement of ‘general negativity’.

While these aren’t the most ideal reactions for people to have when I’m trying to communicate to someone how the clothing they choose to buy and wear can make a difference in the world, at least they haven’t shot me down completely yet, which means I can still try my best to have an enlightening conversation.

As much as I can tell people my ethical shopping tips, or write about them in a blog post, I find the best example is when I just point at what I'm wearing— ‘my pants are from a friend, my shirt is from a second hand store and my shoes I had before I even knew anything about ethical shopping’. After this people give me the once over and you can see their minds working to figure out how this all works.

I wanted to share with some of my favourite ensembles from my closet to shine a light on the basics of how I am working with transitioning my wardrobe into an ethical closet… and hopefully inspire you to do the same along the way!

Top: Everlane. Necklace: Sugar Blossom. Shoes: Toms.
Pants: Had them for a few years now! Glasses: Warby Parker
Cuff (& laptop case in title picture): Cambio.
I understand this can seem overwhelming—when I first learned about how our clothing is made and wanted to make a difference, I thought of all the things in my closet and just wanted to RE START COMPLETELY!
However…. Money doesn’t grow on trees (not that I know of, anyways) so that doesn’t make sense.  What you have in your closet has already been purchased. It’s yours. And unless you were planning on getting rid of it already, keep it. You made the purchase before you were educated. It’s OK.

Now when it comes to buying new clothing, I set out with a few guidelines in mind.  While the basic guidelines are the same, sometimes the order of them will change whether I’m looking for a specific item, if I’m working with a timeline, or if I just feel like browsing.

The number one guideline and rule I like to have is pretty simple…

#1 – Shop Ethical.
If I can buy an item from an ethical company, I will.
This is my number one always. Ethical companies may seem hard to find—especially in brick and mortar—but online they exist and have great products! My recent find is a company named Everlane. I bought a few things online and they are both affordable and comfortable. They have great basics, which are ideal for dressing things up or just looking casual. To find ethical companies a simple google search can do wonders—and even following the rabbit trail on places like Instagram can lead to find companies doing amazing things!
Top: Second Hand Store. Pants: Same as Above.
Shoes: Had them before I knew what ethically clothing was!
Glasses: Warby Parker. Bracelet: Sugar Blossom.

All the other guidelines fall pretty evenly. In my opinion, no one of these options is better than the other, as none of them are ideal but are all great ways to implement your active choice of choosing to live a lifestyle where you prioritize the value of the life of another human being.

#2 – Shop Second Hand.
There are some amazing second hand and consignment stores around! What’s great about second-hand is a lot of stores fund charities or support local non-profits with the incoming profit from the items they sell! Take MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) or the Salvation Army as examples! Another great place for second hand is Plato’s Closet—they only carry items in line with trends and that are in great shape! I just had a friend text me about how she got 2 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, a blazer and more for just over $100! What’s great about second hand is the ‘damage has been done’—even if you buy clothing from a company that doesn’t have the best labour practices, your money isn’t supporting the company who created the item.

Top: Everlane. Kimono: Made in the USA, from GG Boutique.
Bracelet: Sugar Blossom. Pants: From a Friend
Shoes: From a Second Hand store given to me by a friend!
Glasses: Warby Parker.
#3 – Shop Free2Work.
I love Free2Work as it rates companies and brands we are all used to seeing when we go to the mall. I commit to buying clothing from ‘mall brand’ store with a B rating or higher. This allows me to still purchase clothing in a brick and mortar setting—which can be beneficial when it comes to trying things on like pants and dresses.

#4 – Shop Impact.
I once posted a status on Facebook asking friends to share with me the name of ethical clothing companies they love. Most people ended up referring me to companies like Toms and Ten Tree. While these companies wouldn’t be defined as companies who 100% ethically create their goods (at least to my knowledge of their supply chain), they are companies committed to trying to help people with a one-for-one model. With Toms, one pair of shoes for you means one pair of shoes for someone in need! Warby Parker does the same but with glasses, and with Ten Tree 10 trees are planted for every article of clothing you buy. These companies are positively impacting the world, which is great!

Top: From a Friend. Purse: Garage Sale find! Glasses: Warby Parker.
Pants: From a Friend. Shoes: From a Friend.
#5 – Shop Local.
While you can’t guarantee an item is ethically made just because it’s made in Canada or the United States, there is a good chance those making the clothing had better conditions then those countries that are know for sweat shops. I had stumbled across this lovely little shop out of the states on Instagram and all of their products are manufactured in the United States. It’s not a guarantee, but I feel more comfortable wearing it. Little accent pieces like jewelry, headbands and toques, scarves and more, can be made by local artisans too! Source them out and support people in your community!

#6 – Shop your Friends Closet.
Do you have friends? Hand-me-downs are amazing! I work with some very fashionable ladies and when they get rid of clothes, you best believe I am ready and waiting to take a look the bags and snag some items! Hand-me-downs in good condition are amazing! You didn’t pay for them and they can help supplement your wardrobe! And, it’s even better if the hand-me-downs you’re getting are ethically made!

Top: Everlane. Scarf: Made by a Friend. Pants: Had them for a few years now! Shoes: From a Friend.

When you break it down, it’s not that daunting of a process and it’s easy to take steps towards living a lifestyle where your clothing tells the story of how you care about our global community. As the saying goes; do what you can, with what you have, where you are. I believe taking these small steps in choosing ethical clothing can impact the lives of those around the world who make our clothes, and can impact those closest to us when you share the stories of why you wear clothes that create change.

*All photos by the always lovely Krysten Cathleen Photography. She is such a gem! Easy to work with and so so much fun! Check her out!

Monday, September 14, 2015


I had a few friends in Hamilton who told me I would enjoy yoga if I tried it. They were avid yogi’s who absolutely loved the benefits hot yoga had to offer. While they may have suggested I try out the practice, I never did in a studio setting. I did, however, enjoy doing 'Yoga with Adriene' on Youtube.

When my wonderful husband accepted the opportunity to play drums at the Hard Rock Café in Dubai for a few months, I was left with a lot of free time to fill in order to distract me from the fact that it's just me and Bourbon at the apartment. Enter, yoga. Being thankful for the lesser cost of a trial membership, I embarked on a journey of yoga-- first at Moksha, and now, at Yoga Public.

I’ve enjoyed what practicing yoga has offered. 
The physical benefits of practicing are getting in a workout that doesn’t necessarily feel like a workout, and participating in at least 5 classes per week.  
The mental benefits are incredible-- one complete hour where I am fully present in the moment of what I am doing. While challenging myself physically, I do so without feeling hard on myself as I’m pleasantly surprised at what I am capable of and rarely feel discouraged when I try, then fall. Learning to concentrate strictly one thing only, preventing the mind from wandering, has been fascinating. 
The final collaborator is the emotional benefits which, for me, has been getting out of the apartment and realizing I found something I actually enjoy doing!

To receive the optimal benefits of a trial membership, one must always try as many different classes as humanly possible. Yoga Public has this variety aspect down from basic hot flow classes, to hot core classes, yin, meditation, detox, and, my new favourite for ending my work week, floating yoga and meditation.

*I’d just like to take a moment to say that yes, I am a Christian, and yes, I am doing yoga and loving it. I know some people don’t understand how to mesh the two together in such a way they feel they aren’t compromising their faith. I think I’ve done an alright job of it. Being aware of what the instructors are saying and mentally saying to yourself ‘yes, I agree with this’ or ‘no, I don’t’ is enough to keep myself grounded in my own faith, while exploring the many benefits of yoga.*

The floating yoga and meditation is done in the yoga hammock/swing thing (so technical, I know) and is some super fun yoga first, with meditation to follow. This past weeks class was guided by a new (to me) instructor and she was absolutely lovely. The meditation focused on breathing in with the intention and expectation of ‘receiving’, and breathing out to the idea of 'letting go’. At the end of class, the mantra was paired with the challenge to take forward the objective of being fully present in every moment—not allowing yourself to be distracted. To just be and see the difference it makes with friends and family, and even your pets! While I enjoyed this immensely (along with the essential oils and ambiance touches of music, candles and gong), she spoke one phrase that captured me...

Thanks, Pinterest!
With our hands at ‘heart centre’, she spoke of compassion, and love, and all those gorgeous things that come from our heart. She then guided us to take our hands and gently cup our eyes. She spoke of how we need to take the love and compassion from our hearts, and use those to shape what we see through our eyes. For anyone that has read my latest blog post, you know this sentiment is on point with what I try (and both succeed and fail at trying) to do in my life.

While yoga can be filled with chants I don’t take part in because I don’t know what they mean, new age philosophy where a hot flow sequence was created to honour the blue moon (yes, it happened), or other general phrases of third eyes and things I know nothing about, there are moments where beliefs collide and the message and mantra resonates from deep within, making my practice feel all the more engaging on every possible level.
Every class ends with your teacher thanking you for sharing your practice and the simple phrase of ‘Namaste’. I was once told that Namaste means ‘the light in me acknowledges and honours the light in you’. I love this definition. We are all amazing and created in the image of God—I can't fathom a more perfect phrase to say to someone than the simple message of how you acknowledge and honour how God is living in them and through them.


**If you’ve never tried yoga, I encourage you to check it out Most places have ‘Karma Classes’--  anyone can attend for a fee of a suggested donation to attend the class. The donated money goes to a charity.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

I Don't Need Saving

You know what really grinds my gears?
People assuming you need saving…
Especially when you don’t.

Now, cool your tatter-tots and hear me out before a full-fledged sermon comes flying at me. I’m not talking about THAT kind of saving. The kind of saving I’m talking about is when people assume you want to be rescued from conversations with individuals who are mentally disabled.

Yes, I went there.
And I think it’s about time I did, considering how often this seems to happen.

Recently, I was sitting in a local car dealership having some work done to our amazing little car. This is the same car that was a surprise gift to us before we moved to Hamilton, Ontario a few years ago. Friends had conspired for our benefit. Our old car was quite the beater; It didn’t have great heat, was so loud you could hear it coming from blocks away and could only travel short distances— if you went to slow down from highway speed after driving an hour the car just die… on the road… for no apparent reason. One day I arrived home to a car in the driveway. After making the assumption someone was over, I went inside to find a giant bright orange poster which read ‘JP & Aelea’ on it with a set of keys. JP got home and we investigated—we opened the car and there was a card stating that we deserved to have a happy birthday better car! Opposite the perfect sentiment was a list of friends who dug into their hearts and wallets and contributed funds to purchase a car for us, including the covered cost of insurance for a year. Talk about being completely floored by the generosity, love, kindness, and pure servant-hearts of those we are blessed to call friends. We were blown away and, to this day, I get in the car and I smile, lovingly and secretly naming our Alero, ‘the car that love bought’.

Now that I completely sidetracked this post to the story of how we got our car, back to the point…

I had decided to sit in the waiting area of the dealership while the work was being done. The repair wasn’t going to take long so sitting and waiting seemed to be the right way to go. Pulling out my phone I settled into an end chair of the perfectly v-shaped waiting area and began browsing social media.

The Instagram/Facebook photo of the new car!
A young gentleman came up and started chatting with me. My husband and a few friends lovingly nicknamed him ‘Mach 10’ from how he always rides his bicycle around town and literally does everything he can to his bicycle to go as fast as possible. He is a little ‘slow’ as people would say, but I don’t mind—I’m waiting around for my car and I’m totally down to converse! We chatted about the reason for his visit to the dealership (wondering if perhaps they had a tire that would fit his bike) and then he was going to be on his way. He loves to chat and is one of those guys who can talk forever. The story about the bike tire led to another story, which led to another... I enjoyed the conversation since I really know nothing regarding the woes of bicycle ownership when it is your sole mode of transportation. When he attempted to engage with another gentleman in the waiting area, the middle-aged man just stared straight ahead and said nothing.

While the actions of this gentleman made me feel slightly annoyed, Mach 10 didn’t seem to mind (or really notice) so we continued our chat. 20 minutes or so had passed by— we were just two folks hanging out.

During those 20 minutes staff had asked him if he was doing OK, if he had any other questions, if they could help him with anything else, etc. He always said he was good and that he was just chatting with a friend’s wife since he knows my husband. Every time they questioned him I just smiled, waiting for our discussion to start up again. Then someone decided I needed saving…

A staff member comes out of their office and says they need to ask me a few questions. Assuming it was about my car I got up, said bye to Mach 10, and walked toward the office. Slightly anxious because the knowledge of my car is about zero, I arrived to find there were no questions, there was no paperwork to sign, my car wasn’t suddenly ready, and there was no information needed. I walked into the office and was told a generalized comment of “Oh there’s nothing, just thought you might want a way out.”

Excuse me…like… what?
Did I seem distressed?
Was our conversation where I was asking questions and making comments back to this young gentleman throw you off to the point where you thought I needed you to swoop in and get me out of there?
You are not Thor and I am not Jane.
I don’t need you to fly in and save me from the people of the world.
Did you take my smile and nod of agreement to how Mach 10 and I know each other as a subtle cry for help?
I do not need saving.
If professionals, in a business where customer service and caring for the client is a priority, deem some individuals as needing help and others less valuable for their differences, I can only imagine how others may treat him.

What happened to loving people? I remember hearing a message at church, probably 5 years ago, which encouraged us as Christians to approach every person you meet with the thought in the front of your mind that this person is someone Christ loves and died for. They are more valuable than you could ever imagine and so so special. This message impacted me greatly and it’s something I continually think about and work to do. God’s love for Mach 10 is greater than the speeds on his bike x infinity!!! As a Christian, my job is to try to make each and every person I come in contact with feel that love and value. In this case, chatting with him when no one else would give him the time of day was being loving and accepting and kind and I don’t think anyone ever needs saving from acting out those basic necessities of life.

What's even more sad is the same situation happened a few days later, but with a different individual. Where do people get off thinking it's OK?
I challenge you to challenge the status quo.

Think of everyone you meet as someone Christ died for and loves with a love more amazing than anything you could ever imagine. It’s the truth. It’s amazing. It’s life changing.