on angels and coffee shops, and how I knew we were supposed to move to Montreal

Okay, so this post was actually originally published on another blog that Matteo and I were going to try to write together a while ago, but I thought I’d publish it here to share since it is a year since we took a trip of discernment to Montreal and this is a story from that time! Can’t believe how far we’ve come. Actually, we were sitting in a restaurant just yesterday with the people we met with who worked it out with us to come here and now we are actually living in the city of that restaurant – how crazy is that?! Anyways, without further ado, here is a story of calling.

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Matteo and I decided to visit Quebec in early December 2015 to discern our calling to Montreal from Vancouver after months of conversation and prayer. One day during that trip I had a [not-so-]chance encounter in a coffee shop that was a powerful shift in our decision-making process.

On the Wednesday of our weeklong visit, Matteo had a meeting during which I had some time to kill.

By this time in the trip, I had a pretty good sense about Montreal but I still wasn’t sure. I was using my thoughts and feelings to discern a fit and I had a sense of Yes, I could do this, no problem, but I lacked the calling, the sense of I must do this. In other words, I felt like I could say yes, but not a specific sense that God wanted us to be in Montreal in particular.

And so, when Matteo dropped me off in an area where I could walk to a coffee shop and went on his way, I set out and decided to pray specifically for a sense of calling. As I began to pray, I began to think that I should pray to encounter God – even perhaps to meet an angel.

Minutes into my walk – no joke – I saw an angel.

It was in a rather unconventional form: a small statue of an angel that I passed by on the sidewalk as I walked to my destination. And, like you, likely, as you read this post, at first I brushed it off as a coincidence. However, as I often forget, there are no coincidences in the world of God – who notices even the smallest sparrow that falls.

Regardless, that encounter in no way made it clear to me that we were doing the right thing in moving across the country to live and serve in Montreal.

I ended up at the coffee shop (Dispatch, to be precise – third wave coffee what?!) and ordered some avocado toast and coffee. I had a project to work on for our church in Vancouver’s blog and so I pulled it up on my laptop and began working on the text and graphics. After about two hours, my battery was nearly dead and I had no available outlet so I packed up to leave. However, as I stood up from my table, a man called me over and asked if I could talk for a second. He said, “I passed behind you when you were working on  your computer – what you were working on looked so Zen. Can I ask you, are you spiritual?”

And let me tell you, I got goosebumps.

Matteo and I had spent the previous two days learning about the religious climate in Quebec, understanding and being exposed to a city which walked out of the church in the 60s and never returned. Not only Christianity, but religion in general, is understood to be corrupt and misleading, and Montreal (and all of Quebec)’s posture is secular.

So, to encounter this question was to encounter a wildly unique person – not only someone who was open to religion, but was open to talking about it.

I answered by saying yes, that I was spiritual – in fact I was a Christian from Vancouver visiting Quebec to learn more about religion in this city. In the following conversation he revealed that he had been attending a church for the past few weeks. In fact, he had met Jesus and been converted.

I nearly collapsed with wonder and joy.

Here was a man – an angel really – sent to me, I believe, from God, to confirm that God was at work in the city, and that I was being invited to see him and join in his work.


This was when Matteo called to check on whether he could come by and pick me up to go to dinner. I frantically ignored his call a couple of times and then finally had to pick up and explain that I was encountering Jesus and could he please come quickly so that he could meet this man too.

By that time I had explained that Matteo was a pastor and that we were exploring the possibility of coming to Quebec to be part of a church.

When Matteo came through the door, the man/angel greeted us together with an extraordinary exclamation: “You guys are on a special mission.”

What a crazy gift to be welcomed to Quebec by someone who had encountered Jesus, who was himself seeking to encourage others through verses and texts which he showed us that he’d been finding in his Bible, who ministered to us and showed us light in the middle of a dark city. He treated us to coffee and as we sat, I couldn’t help but think of the image of a Trinitarian God who invites us into relationship as we three sat around a table.

In sum, this encounter was what confirmed for me that we were to come to Quebec. I prayed for a sign of some kind, and God spoke to me clearly with exactly what I needed to hear. Little did I know as well that Matteo had been specifically praying for me earlier that week to have a personal and particular confirmation of a call. Incredible!

on the lie of a benevolent universe


I just wanted to share some words from Shauna Niequist because I read her newest book, Present Over Perfect, while I was away visiting with family in Vancouver a few weeks ago and they were very impactful.

She writes:

I thought that outside forces would guide me benevolently, rightly. They did not. And it was not their job. It was mine. I abdicated authority for my own choices. And what it led to was a broken body and depleted soul.

And now some years later, I know that I am responsible for stewarding my own life, my desires and limitations, my capacities and longing. I can do far less than I originally believed.

The idea of a benevolent universe that guides us into the right life circumstances really struck a chord with me – this is SO what I’ve believed since the beginning of time.

For some strange reason or another, my Christian upbringing never led me to separate the idea of God who creates beautiful, decision-making, honest-to-goodness human beings with a God who places humans in a pre-designed universe which will guide them into being their ultimately best case scenario. My goodness. Note to my current and future self – God does NOT guide us through benevolent forces in the universe. God Himself is NOT a benevolent force. No, God lovingly created human beings and gave us the ability to make decisions about our lives – what we want to do and want not to do, what we prefer and don’t prefer. We are made to “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!” as Eugene Peterson paraphrases Genesis 1:28 in the Message.

This world is not pre-designed. Our lives are not pre-designed. If we choose to accept whatever falls onto our plate as our lot in life – well, it’ll be painful when we realise it’s foolish to equate the way things go and the way things could be. Believe me – I’ve been duped by this idea for a long time, thinking that a job offer, or a volunteer opportunity, or more work or another contract or even a relationship or friendship must no-questions-asked be meant for me simply because it came across my horizon. Um, no! Not even close. God simply did not intend the world to be that way.

Some imagined universe force will not benevolently mold our lives into perfection – who are we kidding?

We are wonderfully made and all is grace. We are limited and meant to walk in freedom because of that. Can we believe that today?

I know it’s something I need to keep reminding myself of.

on communing with Jesus

Lately, it’s been realizing that dynamic communion with God, and hearing the voice of Jesus, is what matters.

It started in a coffee shop, in a meeting with an old friend, and hearing about the enormity and importance of the work to be done over the next few months. It seemed, though not outright, that their work was going to be far more challenging than that of those called to seasons of rest, or different kinds of work. Their words reminded me of my own inclination to believe in the value of certain kinds of work, rather than the desire to live calmly and ably within a relationship with the Lord, walking alongside Him into each day and season of life. [And reminded me that being called into a season of rest requires MUCH faith and perseverance and energy too.]

Then, a fatal smack in the head with the realization that I too have come to believe that God is a God of principles: “Live out of your comfort zone, always.” “White privilege is to be abhorred, always.” “We are indispensable to the work of God, always.” “Comfort is EVIL, always.”

This is just too ridiculous. No! Jesus longs to be in dynamic relationship with us, communing with us, blessing us, challenging us, growing us. We don’t inherit a bunch of guidelines from the Christian tradition and then strive to live by them. We don’t get the idea that Jesus loved hanging out with the poor, and then hang out with the poor because it’s the godly thing to do [guilty]. We don’t cringe at the enormity of our callings. Rather, we seek to hear the voice of Jesus and love Him and appreciate Him and live according to His commands [which are not static].

And then, Gordon Smith revolutionized my life yet again through a [seriously AMAZING] lecture series on discernment, and presenting the idea that the Christian faith is a faith of response. We look to see where God is working… and then join Him! God is a God who speaks and acts. We seek and find Him, and then join Him in what He is already doing. Our faith isn’t about finding His will for us and our lives; it’s joining Him in His story.

Praise be to the Lord, who holds us all together.