Monday, March 24, 2014

Beauty and the Beast of Negativity

You know those "barefaced, make-up free" selfie nominations that are going around Facebook in support of cancer? I guess they're kind of a big deal. Maybe you've noticed or maybe you've been too busy Youtubing cute kittens to know what's the newest trend on Facebook (don't worry, most of us aren't judging you). What I find alarming though is the amount of flack these beautiful, bold girls are getting for participating in the newest movement. 

I've heard the usual rumblings of "how does this support cancer?" whenever something is supposedly connected to cancer awareness and to be honest, I actually understood that line this time. At first I thought the nominations were to promote realistic beauty, self-confidence and acceptance of oneself, so when I heard that they were to fundraise money for cancer I was a little thrown off. However, the fact that people are throwing negativity at this newest fad is mind boggling to me. People are complaining that a barefaced selfie has no connection to cancer, so why would anyone post a picture of themselves and continue the trend? I find this particularly interesting due to the new popular month of "Movember" that sees men growing facial hair to support, fundraise and promote awareness for prostate cancer. A worthy cause and an interesting new take on fundraising that initially received flack as well, but has now developed into a successful, annual, fundraising method.

The original idea for this concept (if you're interested) was that a group of women decided to raise money for cancer by foregoing makeup for a certain amount of time, like to work or school. The fact that women hide behind makeup and feel insecure without it is evident in our society today and needs little discussion. From movies to magazines and photoshop, the image of the ideal woman is everywhere and most of us live in fear of failing to make the mark. However, these few bold women decided that being barefaced and feeling vulnerable were worthy consequences in light of raising money for a rampant disease that takes more lives than anyone can count. From here, the concept swept the Facebook world by storm and took on a twist of its own. Beautiful, barefaced photos graced my newsfeed, some with a link to support cancer and make a donation, some without. Either way, I can't grasp why any amount of negativity is being thrown at this. Whether a person's selfie is supporting cancer or supporting women being their naturally beautiful selves, where is the room for negativity? I'd rather see a truckload of these selfies than the countless photos that stream my newsfeed on a regular basis. 

Facebook has a way of enlarging our egos: from how many likes our photos get to how many friends we have, to pretending our lives are a constant, blissful dream of socializing and fun. I could find many a complaint regarding those status updates and photos, many others could do the same, but we mostly don't. So why is it when the newest trend becomes the "newest trend" people feel the need to voice their opinions about how pointless it is? 

Maybe some of these girls are posting their photos for self-serving purposes and wanting to get attention for their natural beauty. However, even that is an issue that needs attention. You're dealing with issues of insecurity and acceptance and that desire for attention comes from a place that is deep and dark. It will take more than a few likes and comments to alter that mindset, but to encourage a girl that she is beautiful regardless of the junk she puts on her face is one step towards creating a realistic mindset towards the "ideal" woman.

There are countless issues that these "selfies" represent. Cancer awareness, self-acceptance, self-confidence, attention and so on. In light of Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health initiative the other month, none of these reasons should be taken at face value. Some of these girls are struggling with things beyond what those beautiful faces show and to attack this movement because it may not be about cancer awareness is to forget what Shrek taught us. People are like onions and made up of so many difficult and complex layers.

That girl's selfie may be about cancer awareness, but even if it's not, there may be a different but equally important reason for its existence on Facebook. The unrealistic body image movement that feeds off our society like a parasite is another cause that is just as worthy of promotion as any physical ailment. Let's build each other up, whatever the reason, and not bring out the beast of negativity. 

As a side note: These selfies have raised over 2 million pounds in the UK towards cancer. (

You can also click here to make a donation to cancer research:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


"It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are." - e. e. cummings

There's something so easy in becoming like those around you. It's something I've done almost my entire life, taking pieces of others and molding them into a muddled version of someone I thought people would like. And whether or not that may have been the case, it damaged the person I was supposed to become. The person I truly am.

I recently found a box full of photos from my childhood and as I sorted through them I saw all the different aspects of my true personality shining through. I saw the philosopher always thinking and looking for meaning. The nature admirer that would watch the wind in the trees, be in awe of the stars in the sky, and would watch white puffed-up clouds float by. I saw pictures that captured a goofy girl that grinned widely and pulled faces, photographs that revealed the mischievous little brat that's truly at the heart of who I am. But what really caught my attention was how full of life I was. My true, God-made inner self untainted by a world that tricks and teases. It's something I've been missing for quite some time and it progressively became more and more lost as I grew up and became more like those around me.

I've fallen apart this past year, more so than I've ever experienced before. I lost myself in choices that were made for other people and not for myself. These past few months were especially hard and I found myself turning inwards and finding nothing there to get back to. The real me had been fragmented into a series of small pieces, glued together with pieces of other people, and my inner self was no longer there.

It's in coming to terms with my choices that I've slowly started to realize the chameleon that I am and how it does nothing for myself or anyone around me. We all offer such beautiful, unique things to this world and I'm finally beginning to realize what a shame it is to cover up what makes me who I am. Just because others don't always fit in with every aspect of who you are doesn't mean that those pieces of you are of any less worth. Don't disregard the things that make you unique - don't become a chameleon - find the courage.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Art of Learning "It's Okay"

It's okay.

Sometimes people just need to hear that it's okay. Not the "things will all turn out fine in the end" kind of okay, but the kind of okay that teaches you to relax a little bit. The one that allows you to feel a little bit less out-of-step with the world than you originally thought you were.

It's okay to make mistakes.
It's okay to fall apart.
It's okay to not live up to other people's expectations.
It's okay to not live up to your own expectations.
It's okay to put less into the things that drain you.
It's okay to fail at things.
It's okay to not get A's on every paper and exam. Or B's, C's or D's. It's okay to get an F. Really.

It's okay to give less.
It's okay to give up.
It's okay to stop pleasing people.
It's okay to take care of yourself. 

It's okay to close yourself off to the people and things that suck the good out of you.
It's okay to ignore people's comments.
It's okay to stop caring about what people think. They are not you. They do not live your life.
It's okay to not be perfect.
It's okay if you're not at your best right now.

It's okay to doubt.
It's okay to struggle.
It's okay to ask the questions that no one seems to ask.
It's okay to be frustrated.
It's okay to turn inwards.
It's okay to not care sometimes.
It's okay to let go.
It's okay to say goodbye.

For weeks, months, years I've been pushing myself to reach these completely unattainable expectations I've set for myself; expectations I thought others had for me. I've pushed myself to continue to take on situations that do nothing but drain the ever-loving life out of me. I've forced myself to believe that the world would end if I didn't give my all. I pushed myself too hard, I gave too much and eventually my world caved in.

People aren't meant to be able to do everything. People aren't meant to be the best at everything, all the time. The forcefulness of societal expectations has pushed us all into one neat box of normal: grow up, go to university, get a career, meet the perfect person, get married, have kids, grandkids and push up daisies. In that order.

Well, that order stinks.

Life is not a formula. Life is unexpected, chaotic, exhilarating, depressing - life is something so complex that how we function as a society should not dictate how each person should expect to live their lives. When we do, we force people to try to become things they're incapable of - of things that they are not - and when they can't meet those expectations they crumble. They become miserable at not having achieved the (not so) attainable goal of what life is supposed to look like.

I am one such person and today I needed someone to tell me that it's okay not to fit into all these neat little categories. That it's okay not to be perfect.

So, I'm telling you these things, because you need to hear that these are not weaknesses and they do not mean that you are failing. It means that you have discovered that you are the unique, complex, human being God made you to be. Heaven help us if we continually try to shove all that makes us beautifully human into a box.

So. For all those that need to hear it today, for all those that feel like giving in, giving up and finding the exit sign...

It's okay.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bumping into God

There are few places you can go and be yourself these days. I've been avoiding one in particular for quite awhile.

It's watched me countless times as I've tried to weave my way through life; navigating the ups and downs as a little girl to a grown woman. It's my safe haven, my refuge from a bitter and relentless world.

It's also the place that knows me best, which is why I've been avoiding it.

I've continued to build a steady stream of walls around myself these days. Each wall thicker and higher than the one before and each bringing more misery in its stead. It's a feeling that deprives you of life - of living and breathing. One that measures moments by minutes and seconds instead of breaths and memories.

It's a soul-sucking, hope-deadening experience.

And yet, I'm doing it to myself. I know it. I feel it. I feel as though there's no stopping these waves of self-inflicted torment that I've cast upon myself. I've wound myself up into a tight ball of unrelenting despair and watched it destroy everything in its place. Myself included.

So, tonight I went back. I needed to be there more now than at any other time in my life.

I stood there... unsure of myself. As though the dirt and grass were foreign to me and the water and sun with it. I saw flashes of younger Sophie's sprawled out in various positions. Sophie's who cried their hearts out, who vented torrents of angry words to the water's waves and sat and talked to God in times when she needed to feel close to him.

It took a few minutes, but as I watched the sun slowly sink behind the islands, I felt its magic at work. It carefully began to break down my pretenses and peel away the layers I had formed around myself as a means of protection.

I relaxed.

I watched as the waves crashed against one another and felt the wet spray hit my nose and mouth. I felt the wind rush around me in an effort to be heard, rustling everything in its wake, with the leaves dancing in response. I reveled in the sun's enormity and its ability to bring warmth and happiness with merely its presence. I watched the light glint back and forth on the water as it reflected snatches of the dark depths below. I breathed deeply and smelled its familiar scent - a scent that instantly creates a thousand memories of life by the water.

And as I stood there I realized why I hadn't returned to this spot in such a long time. It's a place where God likes to meet me - more so than any other dwelling on earth. He's sneaky like that. He created me with a deep love for nature with all of its wonderment and spells, sounds and smells. He knew I couldn't resist a peek at the view from the spot where my world was always righted when I felt wronged.

And so I bumped into God again in this familiar place.

He likes to show me simple truths from time to time. I like to think of them as locks and keys. Every time a simple truth is made astoundingly clear by a little nudge from him, I hear the key turn and click in place.

I stood there taking in the sun and thinking of how we always say the sun is setting. As if it's going away of its own accord. The sun has decided to go down, from our perspective, and so the sun is always coming and going. It always decides to rise and set.

But we know the reality is that the sun is constant. It doesn't move. In fact, it's us that does all the moving. Earth spins its course and turns its back. Yet, we see the sun as the one to leave us, as though our actions have nothing to do with it.

And so it is with God. A constant, unmoving entity that doesn't come and go. One that watches as we consistently turn our backs, return and turn our backs again. Watching with patience as we come to him, realizing how much we need him at times, only to think better of it later. Thinking as though we're not in need of his light; yet, without his presence, we'd be living in darkness forever.


I realized then and there that this was the reason I'd been avoiding this spot. This magical place full of little secrets and treasures whispered out to me across the waters, through the trees and in the air. A place where I am shown my true being and purpose despite the tricks and expectations of the world around me. A place where I go in as a lost soul and come out feeling a little more complete.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Questions and Answers


He's a touchy subject. 

You can love him. You can hate him. But there's one thing you can't feel towards him: neutral. 

That's something I've been wrestling with the past couple of years. It's funny, I've been to a lot of post-secondary institutions since I graduated high school and the entire time all I wanted was to experience a Christian education. Yet, since I began this adventure two years ago, I've done nothing but run away from its people and community. I was hit with a harsh dose of the Christian bubble and what I deemed to be a sheltered people leading sheltered lives, with the all-too optimistic perspective on life. It was suffocating, agitating and about a million other depressing words. 

But what was really at the heart of this frustration with other Christians was my own view of God. 

This view began to change when I started going to a Christian university. It began to twist and turn and blur and the lines that were so clearly drawn for all to see, left me questioning why. What's the reason for this viewpoint, that belief, that rule? Is this really what God thinks? Could he actually believe something like that?

And then I began to question myself. I began to question him. How could you allow this? How could you enforce that? Why won't you let people do this when they only want to love each other?

These were questions that didn't get me anywhere because I felt as though the Christian bubble only allowed certain questions to be asked. That they only allowed for certain types of testing of a book I was beginning to get more and more frustrated at and a God didn't make sense to me anymore. Taking away my personal experiences from the past two years, although they were primarily a big reason for my changing response to God, there was something bigger than my personal problems happening here. Something inside me was changing; I was beginning a new trek. A trek that lead into unchartered territory: what do I believe anymore?

It's been an interesting journey. It's not over yet, it most likely won't ever be, and it's one that's lead me down some dark holes. It's found me stumbling through life looking into the eyes of people that are so certain and never question; that are so full of blind faith that I begin to wonder if they even truly believe what they're regurgitating. It sickened me, this blind faith, these sheltered lives. How many of them were pastor's kids? Raised in Christian homes, all believing family members, protected from the harsh truths of broken homes, flying curse words and the struggle to merely stay alive for one more day because the reality of life was too much? Hell, how many of them had even uttered a curse word? It pained me to see these people with their faith and worship, whether true or fake because it all seemed fake to me. It all seemed so untested.

So, I began to question God. It came about from a horrible class at this school actually, with an equally horrible teacher, who told us to write down the questions we had in response to the corresponding Bible passages we were supposed to read. As I delved deeper into the beginnings of the Old Testament, I found myself unbelievably pissed off at God and so even more questions came spilling out of me. They came from the deepest depths of my spirit that longed to ask questions that didn't make sense, that made me doubt in so many things about God.

As the time went on, my husband and I began to talk more and more about these questions. Could we trust a Bible that was written by humans? Yes, Spirit-filled humans, but how can we know that for sure? How can we not assume that as a fallen creation, some messed up part of the author got into the Bible that God didn't approve of? What if we as readers have interpreted something out of these passages that wasn't intended? Like women not being able to lead or speak in churches from a verse in Corinthians that some scholars question if Paul even wrote. If that's questionable, why isn't the rest? And why trust Paul? How can we trust a council that chose what stories made it into the Bible and what didn't? Were they spirit-lead too? How can Christianity have so many different opinions on the same Bible so that we have a multitude of denominations? If we all think the other's interpretation is wrong, might ours be wrong also? What does God really think of church. Does he hate its stiff collars and additional rules and procedures or is he pleased by them? Does he hate the way we portray him to others? If he does, how can he stand for our version of him? Does anyone actually know the true version of God? Or do we only know what a religious group has organized for us? 

Welcome to a small part of my mind for the past two years. 

But despite all of this I realized something. There comes a point when you realize the questions you have may never truly be answered and you have to decide whether or not those unanswered questions mean more to you than God himself. Do those unanswered questions make you stop believing in God?

I'm surprised to say that, for me, they don't. I don't understand God, his ways and especially his followers. But I know in my heart of hearts that God is who he says he is. That he created me with loving thought and intention and sent his Son to die a death for all of us that was undeserved.

I may not have all the answers to my questions, but I have answers to a lot of questions I haven't been asking. I see God's fingerprints all over this place. In trees and rushing water, a bird's song and its vibrant colours. Even in my own body and its inner workings. 

I don't have all the answers. I don't even have a few. But I have enough to know that God is there; mindfully present when he seems silent, grieving my hurts when they seem unbearable and so desperate for a chance to show me his true self. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The revelation of burnt eggs

Fair warning: this post may contain a mish mash of thoughts. I've neglected so many writing opportunities about my ideas and life situations lately that I feel as though they'll all come tumbling out, tripping over one another in an attempt to be heard.

I think I should start off by saying that I have not been myself this year. That might help in deciphering my newfound perspectives on things. I have watched myself struggle internal battles and become a weaker person. It's so strange to watch you tear yourself apart. Since the beginning of the year there was a shift -- a shift in my thinking and acting. I became a warped version of myself; a bitter, angry, resentful version. Well, to be honest, I'm still watching this warped version move about - not much has changed since this all started. But that's where I'm at.

I think I became stuck between different worlds, different Sophies. I've always been so concerned with what other people think about me. Always. It's something that's constantly on my mind. So, because of this, I found myself trying to meet multiple people's expectations - or maybe what I thought people expected of me. The problem lay in the fact that I was moving about in different worlds. I had my home life: working on my marriage, looking to move into a new home, financial issues, having a real world job and its problems. This is the life of an adult. At 24, I'm living the life of someone much older than myself and while I'm mature for my age and enjoy my home life, this life was met in battle with a new life I had embarked on: school life. This life consists of being around people my little sister and little brother's ages: three to six years younger than myself. Living at home or on res, not worrying about mortgage, car or insurance bills or wondering what benefits your job will cover. Looking to meet someone, not having been married for four years and with that same person for seven. Not working through the ups and downs of married life, let alone the real world in general. Cruising through life with  papers on their minds, concerts to go to and what new tom toms or moccs to buy.

And so, this is where all of my Sophies came to a head. I was trying to be more than the one true Sophie. I was trying to be a kid at school and an adult at home and in the end I couldn't straighten out what to be and where. I couldn't balance it out. Even those people who are closer to my age at school appear to live the lifestyle of the younger students. Living in apartments with friends, hanging out at coffee shops and thinking about getting the school day over with to chill. I tried to mix in with people whose music tastes are different from my own, whose hobbies and thoughts are different from my own but the more I tried to accommodate to this lifestyle or the opposite lifestyle of the super old adult; the more I lost myself. And I think in an effort to protect myself, I shut down. I stopped caring about what other people thought, which is something I don't think I've ever done. I started posting my true inner thoughts on social media outlets and stomping around school and home. Having multiple break downs - crying at the smallest of things, like burning an egg or not being able to open a can of soup (yes, this happened yesterday - don't judge!). I felt... I feel... so miserable trying to please everyone that I stopped. But the person I became was a very ugly person. Self-absorbed, self-deprecating, angry, annoyed, unhappy. And I should've recognized this. When you're crying over a burnt egg, you're never really crying over a burnt egg.

I'm still struggling with getting back to the true Sophie, but I'm starting to realize that I needed this breakdown to get to the real me. I've always run away from confrontation, I hate it. If anyone crossed my path that I didn't agree with, I'd fake it or avoid them. But after trying to get on everyone's good side, it became too much. I overloaded myself with expectations I couldn't or didn't want to meet. This breakdown showed me that I need to be me, in all my messy glory. I need to like what I like, do what I enjoy to do, believe what I believe and not let anyone interfere with my happiness. For anything. How can I enjoy life if I'm not doing what I'm meant to do? How can I help other people if I don't even know how to be me?

One of my classes this semester has me writing questions about the books I have to read in the Bible. At first I thought this was a waste of time (as are most of the things in this class) but as I started, I realized something profound. By asking honest, truthful, hard hitting questions about God and his Word and the people he wanted me to know about -- the more I felt closer and more content in my relationship with Him. I've never known anything like that. Christianity always seemed to me as having cookie cutter standards. Everyone believes the same thing, the same way and if you think even the slightest thing other than that generic standard then you've somehow lost your footing on the path. Better get your map back out and try again. But I don't know about that anymore. When something doesn't make sense to me about God: he's actions, when people change his mind or he forgets something (yes, forgets -- as people like Moses have to point out what he promised in order to get him to hold up his end of the bargain) and I ask those questions, I feel content. I don't even need an answer to the questions. Just asking the question and wondering why allows for this feeling of peace to rise up in me and solidify that God cannot be put into a box. He is who he is, just as I am who I am. Who am I to tell God that he shouldn't do this or he can't do that? But by breaking out of this standard form of beliefs, I feel free in my relationship with him to figure out who he really is and not just who the man behind the pulpit tells me he is. And in the same way, I learn things about myself. I cannot be put into a box. I am not just a student in a school, or a wife to her husband or an employee. I am a strong, adventurous, caring, loyal, vulnerable woman who strives to do things that others only dare dream about. I cannot be split into multiples, I cannot be boxed into a corner and I think that stems from the one who made me. There is no other like Him. He is one God, he is expansive and loving and caring and dares to move those to do the impossible.

I am made in the image of God and there is nothing more beautiful than being me and all that that contains.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

They're back.
And as I peel myself away from this temporary heaven,
Filled with cotton and goose down feathers,
I hear them.
Twittering away,
A reunion like no other.
Time spent apart and distanced from one another,
To come back and gossip about where they were this time.

The day unfolds like any other,
But this time,
Something new wraps itself around each thing.
A whisper of new beginnings, fresh starts.
The old has vanished,
It came falling to the ground in open gestures of defeat.

Now, I see them,
Dancing lazily in the wisps of a warm breeze.
Entranced by their hypnotizing rhythms,
I long to stop and sit a spell.
A deep breath, a lengthy pause.

Vibrant colours,
One set against the other in clear contrast.
Hear the breaking of hardened hearts,
See the thaw that brings them life.
A world reawakened from the depths of despair.

The picture darkens,
Slowly growing dimmer.
Nothing remains but the soft twitters of goodnight.
I hear them one by one,
Slowly retreat, though desperate for a new day to start again.
And I find myself desperate for the same.