Advice to Future DTS Students

It’s been seven years since I did my DTS (Discipleship Training School) with Youth With A Mission, and recently one of my friends was heading off to his DTS. It got me thinking. What kind of advice would I give to him, and all future DTS students?

Here are some of the things that would have been good for me to know before I left for my DTS. To clarify, my DTS was an excellent experience, and I grew a lot personally and in my relationship with Jesus. However, these are things I don’t hear discussed enough in YWAM, or tend to be overlooked, so that’s why I’m focusing on these specific points.

You don’t have to agree with the speakers or staff. It’s ok to disagree. In fact, it’s a good thing if you disagree with some of what the staff or speakers are saying, because it means you’re thinking critically about what you’re learning and there is room for growth. If you agreed 100% with the speakers, why would you need DTS? It’s ok to speak up, ask questions, and even respectfully disagree with things that your staff or speakers are saying. Just don’t be obnoxious or rude about it (I don’t recommend disagreeing in a public setting unless debate has been specifically invited). You can change your mind after a discussion, or not. Either way, you’re thinking and learning from people who are different than you, and that’s a good thing.

Pay attention to when you’re uncomfortable. Just notice it and sit with it at first. Feeling uncomfortable doesn’t always mean you have to change, do something dramatic, or pray harder. Sometimes there’s a temptation in DTS to feel like any uncomfortable feeling is a challenge from God to sacrifice more, give up your rights or be a more committed Christian. That’s not necessarily the case.

Sometimes, being uncomfortable might mean another person has to change, or there’s something wrong with a larger system, or life just sucks for the time being, or it’s a different-but-not-wrong thing, or you’re witnessing injustice. Sometimes being uncomfortable has nothing to do with YOU or anything you personally need to change. The only way to know is to sit with the discomfort. Examine the roots of that discomfort, and pray and consider what your response should be. Oh, and if someone else insists you HAVE to change, that can be a red flag for spiritual abuse. God honours our autonomy and choice, and change should come from a freely given decision on your part, which leads to my next point. . .

Make sure consent is honoured. Ensure your consent is honoured, and that you honour other people’s consent. I could write a whole other blog post on consent, and I may in the future. For now, I’ll write some points that are important to remember.

  • Consent doesn’t just apply to things related to sex, it applies to anything that impacts your bodily autonomy.
  • You can only truly say yes to something (consent) if you have the genuine ability to also freely say no. If your ability to say no is continuously overridden, that’s a red flag for an abusive situation, and you may need to remove yourself from that situation.
  • Remember the FRIES model of consent. Consent must be Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic and Specific. You can read more about this online by searching “FRIES model of consent” (note that most online examples will discuss sex as the practical example, but many principles can be transferred to other activities and situations).

Practically this would mean asking people if you can give them a hug or put a hand on them if you’re praying for them (and respecting their answer). It means not bugging someone to do an activity with you if they’ve already said no. It means stopping wrestling someone when they protest or say they’re done, even if they agreed to wrestle earlier. It means not pressing someone to share something they’re not comfortable sharing. And so on.

Learn a bit about different cultures before DTS. Having a basic knowledge of different kinds of cultures can be really helpful when you interact with your roommates, fellow DTS students, and other people on base. You’ll probably get some training about other cultures before outreach, but you’ll want to know some things before then, as it could help ease a lot of conflicts on DTS. How do different cultures see time? How do they see “goodness and badness”, guilt/innocence, honour/shame, power/fear? Does a culture pay a lot of attention to context, or not much attention to context? Are people expected to say things directly, or to use more indirect and polite ways of communicating? Is the culture a Hot culture or a Cold culture? Learning about this will increase your cultural intelligence (CQ) and help you better communicate and walk through conflict with people from different cultures. Again, an internet search is your friend for a starting point to learn more.

Just because it’s different, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. This is a blend between two points I made above, pay attention to when you’re uncomfortable, and learn about different cultures. Approach something that’s different with curiosity. Why is it like this? Seek to understand it, and look at the fruit of this different thing or different way of doing something. Wait. Don’t immediately jump to conclusions, take a few moments or minutes to ask some questions about the function of whatever it you’ve encountered that’s making you uncomfortable. Let’s say you’re used to standing in worship, but everyone sits. That’s weird and different, but it’s not wrong; we’re still praising God. Maybe you’re used to supper at 5:30pm but everyone eats supper at 8pm. That’s different, but not wrong; everyone still gets fed. Some people believe in infant baptism, others only baptism after a profession of faith, again, different but not necessarily wrong.

Something being different and something being harmful are two separate things that might sometimes overlap. Learning about the difference would again be whole blog post. But for now, the important thing to remember is different doesn’t automatically equal wrong.

DTS is not a substitute for therapy. DTS is a place for you to grow in your relationship with God, and grow in community. It’s not a place to fix deep childhood wounds or trauma or damaged relationships. There’s a good chance you will experience emotional healing in DTS, but that shouldn’t be the aim.

To use an analogy, DTS is like working out to build muscles to help you with what you want to do in your life. However, strengthening muscles works best if you’re already relatively healthy. If you have an injury or disease, it’s best to see a doctor or physiotherapist to heal your body before you start working out. In the same way, if you have major trauma, mental health issues, or relationship issues, it’s best to see a trained therapist to work through them. A professional therapist will have more education, training and tools to help you than the average staff member or base leader. God is just as present in a therapist’s office as He is on a YWAM base; wait and do some work to heal before you dive into DTS.

Some things need professional help. If someone discloses addiction, abuse, suicidal thoughts, or an eating disorder (or if you deal with any of these), PURSUE PROFESSIONAL HELP IMMEDIATELY. These can be actually life-threatening, and require professional help. Your staff are not therapists or doctors. Prayer alone is not enough for these things.

(Suspected or confirmed ADHD, Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, etc., should also get professional help sooner rather than later, though it’s not urgent like items I listed above.)

To get urgent help, call a local mental health or suicide prevention hotline, or contact a local health centre. Check provincial or state health department websites for information too.

When looking for counselling or less urgent professional help, check out Psychology Today for a list of psychologists, counsellors and therapists in your area.

Struggle Care has lots of helpful tips on finding a counsellor, figuring out what you’re looking for, setting up an appointment, and questions to ask in order to get the most out of therapy.

Again, don’t be tempted to think you can deal with these things on your own. God can perform miracles but the vast majority of the time He works through the slow miracle of healthcare and help from other human beings.

And because these are pretty serious topics, I’ll end on a lighter note. If you’re going on outreach to a hot country, bring flip flops. My biggest regret from DTS was not having flip flops, so I spent my outreach in Mauritius, in late summer, wearing leather flats and it was not cool. Flip flops would have been amazing.

Now go, and have an awesome time on your DTS! (Unless you need therapy. Then go get therapy and THEN have an awesome time on DTS!)

What Even Is A Crush?!


“What is a crush?” is a question I’ve had since I was about eleven, and I’ve never quite got a satisfactory answer. I’m starting to wonder if what I call a crush is what others would also label a crush. The only way to know is to explain what this word means to me (in great detail), and then others will be able to compare and tell me how it matches or doesn’t match what they consider a crush.

So brace yourself. I’ve got a lot of explaining to do. 


When I was eleven, my best friend began developing crushes on boys. She told me all about how dreamy this particular guy was. She was very involved in thinking about her crushes, almost to the point of distress. I was confused. “What is a crush?” I asked her and I asked my Mom. Well, they said, it’s when you like a boy and want to be around him and feel nervous around him. 

I guess my first crush was Mom’s piano student [redacted] then. I always ran away nervous when he arrived, and felt kind of weird and fluttery inside. Like there was something I wanted but I was embarrassed I wanted it. 

Then we moved to Canada when I was thirteen and I was still confused about what crushes were. Or how to act around guys, since I only had sisters. TV, movies and the culture around me told me that now I was a teenager, I had to look at boys differently. Because I wanted help, I started reading Purity Culture books like Before You Meet Prince Charming and Answering The Guy Questions. 

These books didn’t really tell me what a crush IS, they just kind of assumed I knew. They talked about the results of a crush (daydreaming about him, attaching my last name to his, choosing the colour of my bridesmaids dresses) and what not to do (don’t talk about him with friends, don’t intentionally do anything that will stir up more thoughts of him, don’t tell him how you feel or give any indications you’re interested, don’t dwell on thoughts of him or get carried away by your dreamy imaginations). 

So I developed my own definition of a crush from reading these books and listening to cultural messages in books and movies.

Having strong emotions related to a specific guy, and not being able to stop thinking about him, meant I had a crush. 

I had no idea that I had ADHD, which often comes with hyperfocuses that can attach themselves to a person as well as ideas and things. I had no idea that there were different kinds of attraction: romantic, sexual, platonic, sensual, aesthetic, kindred-spirit. 

ADHD hyperfocuses, the fact that I’m an Enneagram four, asexuality, purity culture and fundamentalism all make defining a crush super confusing, even now in my late 20s. 


What do I want to do with a guy when I have a crush on him? 

  • I want to hang out with him for long stretches of time.
  • I want to listen to him talk about the things he’s passionate about and interested in, whatever lights his imagination
  • I want to hyperfocus on our areas of mutual interest. Music. Filmmaking. Acting. Fashion. Community building. 
  • I want hugs
  • I want to stay up late talking about deep random bunny trails
  • I want to snuggle with him on the couch or on the lawn
  • I want to go for walks 
  • I want to laugh about lame inside jokes. I want that knowing look where the two of you know exactly what the other person is thinking without saying a word. 
  • I want to be surprised with thoughtful gestures that show he really knows and understands me
  • I want to be kissed 
  • I want to hold hands 
  • I want him to pick me up and spin me around
  • I want to go to fun events together
  • I want to dance with him, both the wild ridiculous dance around the living room kind of dance, and the more romantic ballroom or slow dance.
  • I want to create art with him
  • I want to read books with him and discuss them
  • I want to go cloud watching
  • I want to send random facebook messages and get random messages during the day
  • I want to sneak up behind him and give him random hugs
  • I want to go on long road trips
  • I want him to stay when I’m angry and upset and emotional, and just be still and steady, and then comfort me when I need it
  • I want to play with his hair and have him play with my hair
  • I want to admire him in a suit
  • I want to do crazy things like run around in a rain storm 

All of my crushes but one have been unrequited. So there’s a strong element of wanting to be seen and noticed. I want him to notice me, to come to me, to initiate conversations, to tell me he’s interested in me. To plan get togethers. When I look back at my past crushes, I didn’t so much want THEM as I wanted them to notice ME. 

I look at this list, and my past crushes, and sex never even entered my thoughts. When I had a crush on a guy, their body rarely was as interesting as their mind or their talents and skills. I got excited when my only boyfriend thus far talked about musical theory and technical stuff, but I don’t think it was a sexual excitement. It was more of a “I love watching passionate people talk about what they’re passionate about” thing. I love learning stuff from knowledgeable people.

And now I’m completely doubting myself and just wondering if I’ve been so duped by purity culture that I unintentionally trained myself to completely avoid all sexual thoughts related to guys. But on the flip side, perhaps I was attracted to purity culture because I didn’t think about sex and I could relate to the sexless version of dating/courting they were talking about. 

When I had a crush in the past, I’d also immediately start daydreaming about marriage (as in planning a wedding in my head). This is because fundamentalism told me being close friends with a guy outside of marriage is very Off Limits. So if I wanted to be close to a guy, marriage had to be involved. 

I don’t daydream about weddings as much any more, but I do like the idea of a guy being there long term and not going anywhere and being able to share life experiences together and not have to EXPLAIN everything, because he was there for it and lived it with me. 

When I have a crush, I want to be seen, known, loved. I don’t care about sex. Well, perhaps care is too strong of a word. I just don’t think about it. 


I’ve made a list of all the people I’ve had a crush on in the past. And I noticed something startling. Every crush had something that I wanted in my life at that time.

  • Musical skill
  • Humour
  • Confidence
  • Acting skill
  • Attention 
  • Leadership position
  • Kindness
  • Sound skill/technical knowledge
  • Freedom
  • Enthusiasm 
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Authority from skill and experience
  • Not fully fitting in with mainstream culture

Yes, there was a small aesthetic component too, they were all, in my eyes, good looking in some way. But not always conventionally attractive. (I tend to go for the tall skinny nerdy types, but not all the time. Hemsworths have never really attracted me.) But their looks were rarely, if ever the first reason why I was attracted. 


I’m now wondering if I’ve every legitimately been attracted to a guy. . . or if I was attracted to something he possessed.

It’s not so much that wanted the guy, but more that wanted TO BE the guy. Is it a crush, or is it jealousy/longing for certain character traits in my life that are then outwardly projected on to the young man? Every time I’ve had a crush, it lines up with what value/want in myself in that season. I think I wanted what they have, not necessarily THEM.

Is what I call a crush actually jealousy or yearning? I. . . think it might be. A longing for certain character traits or experiences.

It’s like when a friend told me yeah, he’s kissed girls. I haven’t kissed anyone (thanks purity culture) and I’m annoyed about it. And then, I felt myself feeling strong emotions as I thought about my guy friend. And I thought it was a crush but as I looked more at the feelings. . . I didn’t so much want to kiss him in particular, I just wanted the experience that he’d had. 

The venn diagram looks like this.

See, I’ve had this yearning/jealousy/whatever the strong emotion is around women and married people (like that time I was obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda because I just wanted to make music and do theatre and listen to him talk about his love for both), but I never labelled it a crush. However, if this yearning emotion was directed towards a single guy, because it was a strong emotion and a young man, then I thought it was a crush — because Fundamentalism taught me that ANY strong emotions directed toward young men were crushes. When I had that feeling for anyone else, I didn’t label it a crush. Same emotion, different words depending on who is the source of the emotion. 

Honestly this is a bit of a dismal thought, to consider that maybe all of my romantic crushes were just self-projections of things I wanted to see in my own life. It seems very self-absorbed. Like I’m saying to each guy, You are the positive to my negative. My negatives are attracted to their positives. My lack attracted to their skill or character. I wonder, would I still feel attraction if my negative turned into a positive? Or is it only the distance, the gap that determines the strength of attraction? 

And throw in ADHD, where I hyperfocus on random interesting things, and often times that interesting thing is whatever area of my life I’m currently working on and want to get better at. So, hyperfocus on my negative as I slowly turn it into a positive. . . and hyperfocus on a guy who demonstrates the quality I want in my life at that point. 

Remember how the purity culture books told me to recognize a crush? ‘Not being able to stop thinking about him.’ Well that happens with ANY of my ADHD hyperfocuses. Goldfish. Zero Waste living. Tiny houses. Somatic therapy. Lin-Manuel Miranda. I can’t stop thinking about them. But obviously I don’t have a romantic crush on goldfish soooo. . . “Not being able to stop thinking about a guy” makes it really confusing when I’m trying to differentiate a crush from an ADHD hyperfocus.

I’m an Enneagram Four. The Enneagram Four’s core wound expresses itself as a desire to be truly seen. I feel like what I call crushes almost always came out of that desire to be deeply seen, which culture told me happens in a romantic relationships. I also don’t have brothers, so I crave masculine relationships. Wanting to be seen, wanting to be seen by a guy, being told those desires automatically meant romance because a romantic/marriage relationship were the only ways to satisfy that. . . presto, we have a “crush”. 

And so I’m left to wonder, what would a crush not from lack look like? What would it look like for me to develop feelings for someone from a place of enoughness, rather than a place of yearning and jealousy and empty space? I honestly don’t know.

But one thing I do know, I have a much better picture of what the word “crush” has meant for me in the past. I don’t think it lines up with what others consider a crush, though I’d have to read their breakdown of what “crush” means to them to be certain. So, what even is a crush? I’d still like to know. . .

My Favourite ADHD Metaphor

The Worker and the Bridge Troll

One of my favourite illustrations for how my ADHD brain works is the worker and the bridge troll. I came up with this last year, I think, and it’s been incredibly helpful. (When I remember it.)

So, in my brain there’s a bridge. There’s the worker, and her job is to ferry stuff back and forth across the bridge, from the country village on one side to a town on the other. Under this bridge is bridge troll, and the bridge is their property. The bridge troll isn’t vicious, malevolent or greedy. They’re just hungry. A lot. You have to feed the bridge troll, or else they will harass the worker. If they get hungry enough, they’ll even sit on the worker and stop her from doing her job. Feed the bridge troll, and they’ll sit on the side, and the worker can do her business. Sometimes, the bridge troll will even join in and help the worker, though that’s unpredictable. 

The important thing to understand is that BOTH the bridge troll and the worker are my ADHD brain. You can’t have one without the other. The worker can’t do her job without the bridge owned by the bridge troll. 

My ADHD brain feels like there are two things running simultaneously, and if the one system isn’t engaged, the other won’t work nearly as effectively. I have to find ways to engage both.

So, what does this metaphor mean practically? I have to feed the bridge troll if I want to get stuff done. There are lots of different ways of doing that. I can use music, podcasts or YouTube videos to feed the bridge troll while I do dishes. Medication feeds the bridge troll. Exercise, working with another person, or using fidget toys are other ways of doing the same thing. 

If something is interesting and captures my attention, that’s when the worker and the bridge troll work together, and I don’t need to worry about keeping the bridge troll occupied.

Bad brain days are when the bridge troll sits on the worker and I don’t have anything to feed it. 

So anyways, usually if I’m stuck, I try to remember, “How can I feed the bridge troll?” 

Landing on Rainbows

I’ve been trying on the label of grey asexual/demisexual. . . And it fits. (1,2)

I learned about asexuality and demisexuality a couple years ago, from a friend who is demisexual. I’ve been wondering if it fits me since the beginning of this year. But it was hard to tell, because of my teen years that were steeped in purity culture. When sexual attraction, romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction, strong emotions, flirting, crushes, pleasure and hormones all get tied up together and labelled into one bundle called “lust” that must then be avoided at all cost, things get confusing. 

I’ve been slowly sorting through all of that, and reading more about demisexuality, asexuality and grey asexuality. Am I demisexual or is it just purity culture ghosts? Is something I’ve asked myself a lot over the past few months. 

But quite frankly, I’ve always been confused by what people mean when they talk about sexual attraction. What IS sexual attraction? I still don’t really know and I’m 28. 

Apparently when people watch Bridgerton and said the Duke was hot they didn’t just mean he looks good? There was something more going on with that? Apparently people got excited about the sex scenes for more than just OH DAYUM LOOK AT THE STORYTELLING GOING ON HERE? (Me, I was excited that finally it wasn’t just two people having sex; it actually moved the plot along.) 

Apparently, when people say someone is hot they actually are interested in what is between someone’s legs and not between their ears? They’re not interested in what radiates from someone’s personality?  


But what tipped me over from “Hm I wonder if I’m demisexual or grey ace?” into “Yeah, I’m owning the label of grey asexual now” was a work party a week and a half ago. 

There were about 12 of us hanging out in one girl’s backyard, all in our 20s, all girls except for one gay guy. Basically like the demographics of my college classes (lol fashion school). And I swear literally half the conversation was sexual in nature. Who likes who at work, what they’d like to do with them. Descriptions of body parts. Talking about how hot someone is. Innuendo.

And I did not relate. I wanted to go back to talking about how brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale and canola all have the same ancestor plant, because that was legitimately more interesting to me.

I had the same roll my eyes can we get back to real conversation reaction in college to my classmates talking about sex, but back then I thought it was all because talking about sex outside of marriage was indecent and borderline sinful. 

Now, I don’t really care, and I don’t consider sex a forbidden thing. The fear and knee jerk religious shame and disgust were gone. But I was having the same eye rolling reaction. 

Being around so much sexual conversation made me realize how much I don’t care about sexual conversation. . . and made me see that people don’t conceptualize sexual attraction the same way I do. Like when they say someone’s hot they actually want to bone them? A complete stranger? A celebrity? When I say someone’s hot I mean they look good and I want be around them and pester them with 12 billion questions to get to know them better and maybe snuggle with them (with clothes ON). 

The next night I went down major bunny trails on and related so much to what was being said, it threw the events of the work party into even starker contrast and I thought

well. Guess I’m some sort of asexual. 

(I’m still not sure if I’m actually demisexual, because again, I’m a bit mystified about what sexual attraction IS. I think I’ve experienced it in the past, and most of the time there was emotional connection first, but I’m still examining my past experiences so I’m currently using and prefer the label “grey asexual”, because it allows for more ambiguity.)

I’ve done a lot of untangling of purity culture’s harmful ideas over the past seven years. But with my new revelation of being grey asexual, things are about to get even more interesting. 

Because here’s the thing. I fit really well into courtship culture and purity culture because “don’t have sex until you’re married” I just shrug and say ok, sex before being in a committed relationship sounds sketchy anyway. Gold star. A+ for following purity culture rules. In a lot of ways, I didn’t experience damage from purity culture because I wasn’t fighting my sexual urges. But I experienced damage in a lot of other ways, because sexual and romantic attraction were conflated, and then I was shamed for what I now understand was romantic attraction toward guys. I’ll be unpacking how purity culture did and didn’t affect me due to being grey asexual for a while, I think. 

And then there’s the consideration that uh, I’m on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. I kind of landed there with a bump. Thankfully, I’ve unpacked and deconstructed enough of evangelical purity culture that I’m cool with people being LGBTQ+, and I don’t think God is at all against that. But it’s strange to find myself in that spectrum, that I was told for years and years is sinful. And at the same time I SUPER fit the stereotypical perfect Pure Christian Girl because of my sexual orientation and y’all that is a weird feeling. 

So uh, hi, guess I’m grey ace.

  1. For those not familiar with these terms, asexual means someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction to other people. Grey asexual (greyace/greysexual) or demisexual are terms that fall under the broader umbrella of asexuality. Greyace people experience sexual attraction toward people only under specific circumstances, and demisexual people only experience sexual attraction toward someone if they have a strong emotional connection established. 
  1. The language of sexuality in the Asexual and LGBTQ+ community is very precise. (Asexuality is also considered part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum.) Using those terms, I would now say I’m a cisgender heteroromantic grey asexual woman. This means I was assigned female at birth, and identify as female. I’m romantically attracted towards men. And I experience sexual attraction toward people (specifically men in my case) rarely and under specific circumstances. 

Victory over Struggles?

“Hey, can you guys pray for me? I’m going through a rough patch.”

These were my words to a group chat of Christian artists last week. The group is full of people from all sorts of faith backgrounds, and I know about two thirds of the people in person.

I received many encouraging responses. I received a new one today, which I found particularly interesting. 

“How are you doing this week? Are you feeling a wee bit of victory?”

Uhhhhh. How to answer that? It would take an entire essay to answer it. So, I guess I’m gonna write an essay?

Yesterday I read a thread on Twitter by Kate Bowler that I found super fascinating. It was about the difference between Canadian and American ways of thinking, Americans tend to believe that things must be conquered, whereas Canadians tend to believe that things are to be coped with. I happen to be a stereotypical Canadian in this sense. 

I don’t think in terms of victory/defeat when it comes to hardships in my spiritual life. So answering the question “Are you feeling a wee bit of victory?” is rather complicated. The question itself creates a false dilemma. 

No, I’m not experiencing victory would seem like I’m either failing in my faith life, or I’m REALLY in trouble. 

Yes, I’m experiencing victory isn’t true, because I don’t think in terms of victory. 

I think in terms of health and wholeness, are my systems, my spiritual ecology working well together? There’s not just black and white, there is,  What needs tending? What needs encouragement? Where are things out of balance? 

I don’t need to overcome this rough patch. I need to integrate it, and to know I’m not alone in the process. 


The Lament of Inspiration

Watching Hamilton for the first time in July was a life changing experience. . . Not because of the story itself, but because of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

I’ve been watching YouTube interviews with Lin-Manuel Miranda every night for the past two weeks. For probably the first time in my life, I’m seeing someone who creates in the same way I do. His creative energy feels the same as mine, like siblings or twins. We’re both drama nerds, actors, writers.  We live in that weird cultural middle-ground: he’s a child of immigrants, I’m Canadian-Australian. And the way he loves people and characters and creating, and is just so PRESENT, it’s magnetic and I can’t tear my eyes away. I feel like my creativity tank fills up just being around him, even if it’s only through the internet. I’m inspired, and after what feels like forever, I finally have energy to make things.

I am jealous of Lin-Manuel Miranda. I don’t envy his success or his fame; I envy his freedom to create. I envy the support he has from his family, his fellow actors, and his co-collaborators. I envy his community. I envy his mental stability.

When I create I have to climb past and wade through
depression, anxiety, ADHD
loneliness, insecurity
utter lack of encouragement and support from people close to me
childhood trauma, international moving trauma
fundamentalist ghosts and church don’ts
and the ever-present brakes I put on my passion and enthusiasm.

Now, I’m sure Lin deals with his own hardships. It’s impossible to walk through life smoothly, and there are always obstacles on the creative road. (Though I’m quite sure Lin hasn’t dealt with evangelical purity culture or fundamentalism.)

But seeing someone who makes things freely, and (to my point of view) just has to deal with the regular junk that comes with creating, instead of a mountain of other stuff in addition to normal creative obstacles, well, it shows me how not-free I am. And that hurts.

It just eats me to see people doing the things I desperately want to do, but am not doing. (Acting. Creating. Writing screenplays. Running a sewing business. Living in their own cute apartment.) I’m jealous, envious and frustrated.

I can feel the flood of condemnation and “encouragement” coming in now.

Turn the hardships into creative energy! Now you have amazing experiences you can turn into art! Stop complaining and just work harder! The difference between you and Lin is that you just dream and Lin actually works. You shouldn’t be jealous of other people; it’s your own fault for not doing the things. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure. . . How DARE you be jealous. The jealousy is your fault and it’s sin and you need to squash it IMMEDIATELY or else you will be a terrible human being.

Yes, this a woe-is-me post. But since when did lament get downgraded to complaining and stuffed into the “do not touch” box? We need lament to move forward. I need lament to move forward.

See, every time I would feeling longing and sadness which I also called envy, it would come with that ton of guilt and shame as well. That only shut me down further and made me even more frustrated. If I push away the envy, I also push away the desire and the energy to do the things I want to do. So I will sit with the envy and frustration

I am sad about not doing what I want to do. I am grieving the things that I’ve not done because of all the hard things I have to walk through. I will talk about how I hate the things blocking me.

It’s time to untangle lament from shame and silencing, grief from guilt, and longing from fear.

It’s ok to want things, and it’s ok to be frustrated that I’m not getting those things.


July 13

We moved from Australia to Canada on July 13, 2006, when I was thirteen years old. The anniversary brings up all sorts of feelings. The following are a couple short pieces I wrote on our 14th anniversary of the move.

The 13th of July, 2006, is the day my life changed forever. Though really it’s strange to pin it to a certain day when there were months before of packing and saying goodbyes. Wouldn’t the day where I found out we were moving to Canada be the actual day my life changed? But that wasn’t an actual day, it was rumours and maybes and airy ideas that slowly became more solid with time, until there was no turning back. We were moving to Canada.

And then the day itself, there’s no real actual turning point, and it’s all turning point. Loading the suitcases into the car. Monty driving us to the airport and telling us how to differentiate between pine, fir and spruce needles. (I still don’t know the difference between fir and spruce.) Sitting, our bags gone, just before security, with Grandma and Aunts. Grandma handing out Tim-Tams, eating mine and knowing as I ate it that it would be my last for a very long time. Hugs. Adults crying. Walking to the gate, taking one last look back. The security guard trying to pronounce Dara’s first name, and actually doing a decent job of it.

And then taking off and looking back, one last look at Sydney, at the East Coast, at Australia. MY HOME.

Then — turbulence and fear and crying but not from sadness.

And after that interminable boredom. Numbness I wouldn’t shake for over a decade.

Landing in Vancouver with a blur of grey and green (pine? fir? spruce?) and black runway. Thrill. Excitement! We’ve landed in Canada.
And exhaustion.

Another flight, and then beautiful green and yellow patchwork over the province I’m going to live in. Home? That word will never mean what it used to.


I messaged a friend, and she asked me what I love most about Australia. 
I can’t tell you what I love most, but I can say some things I do love.

I love the wild parrots. I love the jacaranda trees and the big fat cicadas and the way we say cicAHda (instead of the North American cicayda). I love the casuarina trees and the beaches and hot Christmases. I love Tim Tams and Shapes crackers and the Berry doughnut van. I love the flat creeping grass, and the salt air and the national parks and the way that Australians care for the environment in ways that Canadians are just starting to think about. I love that people work to live instead of living to work. I love my Grandma, and walking barefoot to the beach, and picking pig face fruit from beside the road. I love looking for shells and the flags that the surf livesavers put up to keep swimmers safe even though I’m honestly probably going to be building sandcastles. I love freesias and tree ferns and fairy wrens. I love books by Jackie French and words like “spanner”. I love the streets designed to be walkable. I love the escarpment and the river full of jellyfish, and gumnuts, and creeks stained brown with tea tree bushes. And I love how the clouds hang low, so different from the high-up Alberta clouds (which I also love).

And I love Christmas beetles. And ripe mangoes.


Female-Directed Films I Love

I started this on International Women’s Day, but procrastination is a thing. Better late than never, right? So here’s a list of films directed by women that I enjoy.

(Note that it’s been a while since I watched some of them, and thus there may be content I’ve forgotten about. Watch at your own risk.)


Little Women – Greta Gerwig

This is the first movie I’ve seen twice in theatres. And it’s the third movie to ever make me cry. I adore this film, how it’s full of life and affection and kinetic energy. Greta takes a familiar story and makes it fresh, a period piece that is oh-so-relevant to today. Little Women inspired me to go out and make my art, which is something that the best films do.

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

My acting teacher would say over and over again, “Every scene is a love scene.” Never have I seen this more clearly than I have in Lady Bird. It oozes love for and between the characters, romantic, familial, platonic. The love for place is striking. Lady Bird also gave me the freedom to tell my own story. Gerwig said that everything in this film is true, though not everything actually happened (but it could have). And that’s what I want my films to do.

Also. Greta wore dresses while directing Lady Bird which is basically LIFE GOALS.

Awakenings – Penny Marshall

Why don’t more people know about Awakenings?! It’s an absolutely gorgeous story, about a doctor working to find a cure for patients with a mysterious locked-in syndrome. It features Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams.

Awakenings will make you love humanity all over again.

The Farewell – Lulu Wang

Poignant, funny and beautiful. Seriously, the cinematography and soundtrack are gorgeous. I also love the window into another culture. And the ending! I’m not going to spoil it, but it was great.

Belle – Amma Asante

I love Belle for two main reasons: First of all, the costumes. 18th century is one of my favourite eras. And secondly, as a sort of third-culture kid, I really relate to Belle’s story of not fitting into either the culture of your mother or father. (I also like to think of this as a prequel to Amazing Grace, which is another movie I love.)

And if you like Belle, be sure to check out A United Kingdom, also directed by Amma Asante.

Carrie Pilby – Susan Johnson

Whimsical, fresh and fun. Carrie Pilby is such a charming protagonist. Also. William Moseley. It’s a really sweet indie film.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Susan Johnson

I didn’t realize that Susan Johnson had also directed Carrie Pilby when I watched this film. This teen rom-com has all the cute comedic romance without excessive amounts of angst or dumb conversations where people don’t communicate properly. It’s also really pretty to look at, thanks to great cinematography and production design.

Band Aid – Zoe Lister-Jones

A couple works to save their marriage by starting a band and putting all their arguments into song. (But this is not a musical.) I love seeing a movie about a marriage, because so many romance movies are about dating relationships. This movie is offbeat but humourous and poignant.

Another fun thing about Band Aid: It’s one of the first films with an all-female crew.

Aquamarine – Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum

The perfect sleepover movie. There’s depth to each of the characters, the plot is magnificently constructed, and the acting is on point. And it’s super fun to have the Male Gaze flipped on its head. Plus. . . MERMAIDS!

Selma – Ava DuVernay

Not an easy story to watch, but a good and important one. It’s been a while since I watched so I can’t comment in more detail, except to say that the song Glory from this movie’s soundtrack is AWESOME and should be listened to with the dial turned up.

Mamma Mia! – Phyllida Lloyd

Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep and more singing and dancing to ABBA songs in Greece? HECK YEAH!

Rip Tide – Rhiannon Bannenberg

Rip Tide is close to my heart, because it was filmed in the area where I grew up. I discovered it through a serendipitous Netflix scroll, and confirmed the filming location through IMDB research.

I started out with low expectations. It looks like a cheesy teen movie about a model who moves to Australia and discovers herself. But this movie is far more emotionally resonant and beautiful than I expected. I especially loved the focus on women and their relationships. Also the inevitable romance was the least contrived and most convincing I’ve ever seen in a teen-centred movie. And I ADORED all the little Australian things like the morning bird warbles and the Norfolk Island Pine and “How ya goin?”

There are a lot of surfing montages, but strangely I didn’t mind. It’s a lovely film, and worth the watch. Thematically this movie resonates with me a LOT, even months after watching it.


A Sad Story ft. My Old Church

Some important background before I begin my story:

  • I love it when people make a big deal out of my birthday
  • I love having people pray for me or “get a word from God” for me
  • I HATE not being seen or heard

It was November of 2013. We were at our small country church for a usual Sunday service, and this time it was exciting because a family with ties to YWAM was visiting. They were friends of the pastor (who shall hereafter be called Mr. P because he doesn’t deserve the name pastor). Thus, we had solid professional music, and fiery preaching with great stories from one of the YWAMers.

As was our usual tradition, we had testimony time near the beginning of the service. I shared my testimony of the gifts God had given me for my birthday earlier that week. My family had surprised me at college with a party, and God had healed my cold.

At the end of the testimony time, Mr. P mentioned that it was J’s birthday that day. J was the adult daughter of the visiting family, and the sister of the guy who preached. He asked everyone to take some time to listen to God for words for J, and then they would take time to encourage her and pray for her.

There was no mention of my birthday. Which I had OBVIOUSLY talked about ten minutes earlier.

It felt like a slap in the face.

I spent the time feeling sad and angry and betrayed, and asking God not to let me become bitter. (Nowadays I would have said something, but I was young and entrenched in submissive femininity that doesn’t allow you to speak up.)

Everyone prayed beautiful things for J, and I felt my face burn and tried desperately not to be jealous.

And then an older gentleman, also a visitor to our church that Sunday, spoke up. He pointed out that it was my birthday earlier that week, and that the church should pray for me too. I was flooded with gratitude toward the older gentleman.

So the church did pray for me and encourage me.


Even now, six years later, I’m still pretty darn angry that it took an outsider to see me, still angry that this church I had been part of for about five years at that point completely ignored me. It felt like a deliberate snub then, and it feels like a deliberate snub now as I think about it, even with time and distance and perspective.

Such love. Such encouragement. Such attentive care for each member of the congregation. This is why I love church.

(In case you didn’t catch it, that last paragraph was sarcasm.)

And thus ends one of the sad stories featuring my former church.