summer goals and dreams

This summer is already very full for me, but I want to make the most of these few months before heading back to Canada in August! Here are some of my dreams and goals; dreams are the things I dearly hope to do, but have to figure out where to start. My goals are more practical and less nebulous. Share your below!

Goal: Read 8 books. That's about 2 per month from May-August. I just finished With by Skye Jethani and very highly recommend it. I've noticed that most of the people I have a deep respect for a very well-read individuals who cherish the wisdom of others found in the pages of a book. I want to develop that more.

Dream: Create a Biblical Hebrew workshop. Something for families to get a taste of how to read Biblical Hebrew, how to use available resources for Bible study, and why Biblical languages are so significant.

Goal: Buy ethically. Continue to not buy clothes or meat produced in an unethical, inhumane way, inspired by the justice called for in Isaiah.

Dream: Create the Isaiah Fast. It's a challenge I've been brainstorming for a few months now that would ask participants to go a certain amount of time doing a "fast" that follows what God desires according to Isaiah. The name is still being finalized. More to come soon.

Goal: History with my grandparents. Especially after visiting Alert Bay over spring break, I was struck by how much a person's history and heritage can be a part of their identity. I realized that I don't know very much about my own grandparents' stories, or even where my heritage lies. I want to hear them tell me all they'd like to share.

Dream: Memorize a Psalm in Hebrew. I haven't chosen one yet, and I definitely expect it to be hard, but worth it. Or maybe a chapter from Isaiah...

Goal: Refresh memory of John 1-8. I had it memorized at one point on the way to my lifetime goal of memorizing the whole book of John, but now I can barely make it through chapter 2. Time for a refresh. I recorded myself reading it aloud slowly so that I can play it in the car back and forth from work, helping me learn to say it in sync with the recording.

Dream: Write more of my book. This is obviously vague and not specific, but I started writing a book last summer and would love to continue it. Fitting it in amidst a lot of work will be hard, but that's what dreams are for!

Goal: Take an online course. Self-explanatory.

I made this list not as a pressure-based performance-evaluator for myself. I'm trying to be very intentional about not basing my value on my performance. But I also want to make the most of every minute, and making a list of goals is incredibly helpful even if it is just setting a vision. Please share any of your goals in the comments!


isaiah 58 - my translation

A portion from the Great Isaiah Scroll
I finished my final Hebrew project yesterday, which was to make a translation of Isaiah 58 and provide explanations for my choices. The beauty, connections, power, and intensity of the original Hebrew is impossible to capture in English. The plight of the translator is to make a translation that is accurate to the words of the text, but also takes into account idioms or cultural knowledge, and yet also conveys the emotion of the passage. Because this is a great challenge, I translated Isaiah 58 in three portions. The first, the Rough Translation, is a very basic direct, nearly word-for-word translation for the foundation from which to work. The second, the Smooth Translation, is what one might find in a commonly used translation of the Bible, best for in-depth study and reading. The final translation, the Modern Translation, is my personal favorite. Though furthest by far from the original words of the passage, I feel best it conveys the emotion, the desires of God, and the modern application of God’s desires. Each translation serves its own purpose, and each gives us more understanding of the Hebrew text. I've shared the Modern translation for you; if you want to compare it, feel free to pull up Isaiah 58 in any version you're familiar with. Most of all, I hope that you are impacted by what the heart of God. Though this passage speaks to Judah millennia ago, his heart is unchanged. Let us be people who hear and obey. 

 Isaiah 58 in English - Modern Translation by Shelby 

Shout, give it 100%, let your voice blast like a horn to deliver the news to my people about their big mistakes, and to the house of Jacob about their sins.
They do their daily quiet time, they memorize verses and do Bible studies together, acting like a country that actually follows me and doesn’t just blow off what I have said. They ask me what I say and mean, they like all the fuzzy warm parts of this religious experience. 
They ask me, “Why don’t you notice how much we’re giving up for you? Why don’t you care about how we’re being sacrificial?” 
Okay now, this is why: At the same time that you give things up, you demand more of those fueling the consumer system you live in because you still want your comforts and appearances. And this: your sacrifices only make you irritable and defensive, quick to lash out at others, and that is evil. This kind of sacrifice will absolutely not make me listen to your prayers.  
Do you think this is the kind of sacrifice I want? The kind of humility I want in a person? Is sacrifice just self-deprecation and complaining and making your suffering visible to everyone? Is this what you think will give you access to me and get you answers to your prayers? 
 Isn’t this the “sacrifice” I’m looking for: to break chains of every kind that hold people captive, to unshackle fetters, to give the oppressed what I have told you are their basic human rights, and to break down the systems that keep people from freedom? Isn’t the point to not just give up stuff but to actually use your resources to help those without? Giving your food to those who are hungry? Giving your home to the homeless or refugee? Giving your clothes to those who need them? Not just keeping your status and wealth and conscience hidden away from your fellow humans in desperate need? 
 If you do this, suddenly everything will finally be as you’ve longed for it to be, and the evil and suffering in the world will finally be healed. The right and just things you do will be your reputation and credentials, and my incredible power and presence will be with you to protect you. If you do this, suddenly you will find that God will answer your calls, and when you cry out to him he will cry right back, “I am right here!” So if you want him, then get rid of all this stuff that is all around you: chains of oppression, finger-pointing, and destructive words that shouldn’t be said. Also give of yourself, your soul and your resources, to those in need, working so that the people who have suffered so much may be full of comfort in their hearts, minds, and bodies. All of this will bring up your light into the darkness, your right way of life into this messed up world. 
 Then God will guide you further and further and will fill up your heart, soul, and mind in the driest, most desert-like times and places. He will strengthen your innermost being and make you like a flourishing garden, green and lush, that is so full of the water of life that it overflows out of you onto all around you and satisfies them too. 
Even into the cities, those who come after you will rebuild everything that has been long in ruins, and your actions now will lay the foundations again for generations to come. You will be called the Reconciler, you will be known as one who restores the world back into how it was in the beginning, a place for all to live in safety and wholeness. 
 If you will stop doing whatever you want on the Sabbath - the one day a week I set apart for rest – and instead actually make that day different, delightful, and honoring to me by not focusing on your own comforts, entertainments, and consumption - If you do this, you will find that I am far more of a delight than any of the rest of it, and I will make you feel like you are soaring above the highest points on earth, and I will give you all the wonderful things I have longed to give you and promised to your father Jacob, because this is what I have said that I will do.

I was torn between continuing to write about Isaiah or between writing a post for Mother's Day, but I realized just how connected they are for me. I owe so much of my love for Scripture to my mom. I was shaped by growing up around a breakfast table where we read the Bible and memorized chapter after chapter of it. My mom loved the name of Jesus in Hebrew, Yeshua, for as long as I can remember. She would cry when we read through the account of the crucifixion. She would ask what something from the Scripture really means, and how we can really apply it to our lives. I am so grateful for the love of God's word that my mother instilled in me. 


isaiah 58

I'm working on translating this from Hebrew for my final Hebrew project, but here is the ESV version. And more on this next week:

1 "Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.
3 'Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?' Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
13 "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."  - Isaiah 58


twu part two - afterward

I'm home from my second year at TWU, and taking a moment to reflect on who I am and how I am different now than last September.


There is a reason that education is so highly valued for character formation by so many philosophers through the ages. Even though I'm just working toward a degree, each class is shaping me in different ways. My favorites this year included Hebrew, Greek, Linguistics classes (like Phonology, Morphosyntax, and Literacy), Eastern World Religions, New Testament, and more! TWU challenges me to not just pass a class, but to take the knowledge and apply it to my life. After this year, I'm even more convinced of my passion for linguistics, and I love discussing the philosophy behind it, pondering how our languages so significantly affect our culture and worldview. I've decided that Hebrew was my favorite class because there have been so many moments of awe, so many times I've been close to tears as I read and translate the heart of God in Isaiah. Keep your eye out for further life application from the book of Isaiah, coming soon.


There have simply been too many wonderful friendships to name them all. My last post told you about Matt, Chelly, and Remi. Everyone around campus knows that I can hardly ever be found without Claire. I was blessed with the most wonderful roommate I could have asked for, Sharon. And there are so many more from class, from my teams, from working together, or from just constantly running into each other. Our theme for this school year at TWU was "Called to Unity, Committed to Community," and it truly has been a theme for me. I've come to realize just how at home I feel at my university. This community of people stretches me, encourages me, mentors me, and gives me opportunities to do all this for others too. I'm already sad that I will have to graduate in two years.


It feels like most of my time at TWU is honestly spent doing the non-academics. I was part of Intercultural Programs, striving to better understand the cultural experience of international students on campus and find ways to integrate and welcome them. And as I learned about how these international friends of mine had been shaped by their culture, I started to realize just how much I too had been shaped by mine. Something for us each to ponder.

I am so thrilled about how God worked to start more and more prayer on campus. I was sort of an unofficial prayer "coordinator," which meant brainstorming and implementing ideas to help create a culture of prayer at TWU. I am so grateful and blown away by the number of fellow students who jumped in on this vision and made so much happen. We're seeing the Spirit moving; a year ago, there was almost nothing that could be called a "prayer ministry." Now, there are people meeting to pray for the school and the world before chapel every day and in small groups all over campus each week, there is a team every Friday during chapel offering prayer to anyone who needs it, more and more people come seeking prayer, dozens of people on campus participated in prayer workshops in order to learn to pray more like Jesus. We're amazed, but praying for even more!

Inner Growth 

I wrote in-depth on this topic a few weeks ago, but I am convinced that the biggest way I have grown this year has probably been in my own personal understanding of myself. I've been mentored and guided in this path of inner contemplation by my staff and leaders at TWU, but also through the teachings of Bridgetown Church that I encourage you to listen to. Of all things, perhaps the best summation of what I've learned and am still learning is that the way I relate to people is generally the same way I relate to God. And I believe that may be true of you as well. The way you relate to people is generally the same way I relate to God. In my case, I've always been a very independent, confident, self-sustaining person. While that has set me up for success in so many areas of life, it has caused me to rarely trust people, reserving my deepest emotions and desires within myself. Most significantly, this has flowed over into how I relate to God as well, and I'm realizing that I have struggled with holding back my true heart and feeling like I'm maintaining a relationship that mostly depends on me. I'm still figuring out how to change this, but I am encouraged simply by the revelation. 

What a year it has been; I have loved so much about each day. There were hard times, hard conversations, hard realizations, hard assignments, hard decisions. But He is with me still, and He will be with me always. Now to a summer of work, home, family, and friends, here we come.

After finishing writing this post, I looked up the post I wrote at the beginning of the school year: check out all the answered prayers!


how down's brings me up

It's the last Sunday of my second year at Trinity Western University. As a university student, I'm living through what statistics say is one of the most stressful times of my life. Next week I'll probably write about the many factors that have contributed to the craziness, memories, stressfulness, and excitement of this year. But this week, I wanted to dedicate a post to the most special little man I know.

Remi is one-and-a-half years old, and for one year of that he has absolutely stolen my heart. Exactly a year ago I wrote a post about what God taught me just by staring into his big blue eyes. I tried not to creep out his parents by how infatuated I was with their child, but I think they were pretty used to it from his many other adoring fans. There is a beauty to his simplicity that simply draws people in. Not a week went by that I did not wiggle my way into their home, faithfully working to become a favored babysitter. And now, as the year comes to a close, I realize what a gift it has all been.

One of the most beautiful parts of Remi is that he has Down's Syndrome. It's just an extra chromosome, but it affects mental and physical capacities in the few who are born with it. Anyone who knows someone with Down's Syndrome also knows that these people are somehow born with an innate and unshakable joy. And in a year where darkness has been prevalent in so many places and ways, the light of Remi's smile has been a little ray of Jesus in my life. On the days when grades seemed overwhelming, Remi showed me of the joy in bathwater. In the emotions of discouragement with the state of the world, Remi reminded me of the joy in music. Through the mundane monotony of school and daily life, Remi demonstrated that each small, repetitive, over-and-over-again step is a process toward something beautiful. When I was afraid to open my heart to anyone else and risk the pain, Remi's whole little person knocked on my heart's door until I could do nothing but throw it wide open.

People talk about Down's Syndrome as the "Scenic Route," and it's a beautiful analogy to the reality that every milestone takes longer to achieve, and is thus all the more celebrated. There have been moments this year that were so worth waiting for. Back in September I was propping Remi up on his knees and moving his hands to teach him to crawl; now he races in laps around the dorm lounge. A year ago, his floppy body in my lap reading a book was precious; now he points at the pictures and makes the animals' sounds and is ready for the motions of the coming pages often before I get to the page. I was a stranger in September who he made his shy little faces toward; now I'm often the familiar one in the room, and I treasure every time he has nestled into my shoulder. There is almost nothing more rewarding than to walk into the room and watch the giant smile spread across his face.

But there is no doubt that this love I feel comes from more than just this precious boy. From Matt and Chelly, I have experienced some of the most faithful hospitality and willingness to open their lives to a new, temporary person. Even though they both work in stressful, demanding, people-saturated jobs, they have given countless afternoons and evenings of letting me come sit on their floor with their baby, soaking in their wisdom, honesty, and genuine care. I have learned this year that I am so, so slow to trust people, always assuming that they don't mean what they say, that they don't really want me, that I'm inconveniencing them. But Matt and Chelly have spoken against those thoughts over and over. They have sought me out. They have given far beyond what was necessary. They have spoken words of encouragement that were uncalled for, and remembered things about me I never expected.

I have no idea what this year would have looked like without my crew of best friends. They have been one of the greatest gifts God could have given me. It will be a long summer of missing them, but I can't wait to meet the newest brother who will be here when I return!

Down's Syndrome has been the vessel through which I have been given some of the greatest joy. If you have one of these beautiful people in your life, remember that we are some of the lucky few who get to live with this reminder that our value is innate in our humanity, and we are loved simply because we are. But for all of us, remember to stop and be oh so present with the people around us. There is nothing worth more than our fellow humans, each and every one of them. If you do not have anyone with special needs in your life, I encourage you to seek them out and allow them to enter into who you are; they will teach you so much more about what it means to really live. And continue to be generous; open your heart, your home, your arms to those who need it, whether it's a foster child, a lonely senior, a refugee, or a university student in need of rest. I hope I can bless others even half as much as I have been blessed.

Thank you, my dear Keller family.


he is risen

This morning I woke up at 4:43am and quickly got dressed and out the door and into my friend’s car. We made a quick Tim Horton’s stop on our way to Crescent Beach before dawn. The mountainous skyline across the bay was already showing definite hints of pink as I ran onto the grassy beach strewn with logs and over a hundred of my university friends. On the other side of the of the crowd of familiar faces stood a few students leading with Scripture readings and songs of worship on the guitar. We gathered close together to hide from the freezing cold, joining in song. We watched as the sky on the horizon grew brighter and brighter, but the sun had not yet appeared. A student came forward and read from Matthew 28:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  

But as he spoke the words “he is risen,” we were blinded by light. Every face around me was lit up with orange rays as suddenly, at those history-changing words, the sun burst over the mountain peaks. I was speechless; the sun had risen at the moment we declared that the Son had risen. It was just like the light I imagine must have burst from the tomb that first Easter Sunday. It is all because Jesus is risen from the grave that this world has any light or hope. I am still astounded by the awe of that moment. I had to take this quick picture. 

After another song, the leaders sent us to wander the beach in our own time of reflection before coming back together. I was so joyful over God's hand upon us, and over a living Savior who conquered death that day. I reach a nearby log, and then I turned to face the rest of the beach, and realized that as our group spread, we covered the grassy sand bar. And I was struck by how huge Jesus' victory really was. He didn't only conquer death once, he conquered once for all. Every single one of those people filling the beach was a case of Jesus' victory. You did it! I whispered to him in joy. Look at all these people you have saved! It was worth it! 

Praise you, Jesus, for becoming flesh and dwelling with us. 

Praise you, Jesus, for being the fulfiller of ancient prophecies. 

Praise you, Jesus, for choosing to save us even when we were your executioners. 

Praise you, Jesus, for remaining faithful to your promises. 

Praise you, Jesus, for conquering the grave and sin. 

Praise you, Jesus, for being alive and victorious. 

He is risen!


one less to weep

I don't want to dive into the grief and horror in the world around me. But I must. 

She is dignified and poised, this older woman who I meet each week. Along with several younger women, we study English for a couple hours each Friday, helping them cope with this new world called Canada. Their children already speak English well due to their hours in school each day, but these mothers, and grandmother, struggle to go shopping or use the bus, still stressed from their difficult journey from Syria through the English-dominant airports.  Most of our time together is in a frenzy of Arabic, occasional English words thrown to me by someone compassionate to my lack of comprehension. I've picked up a tad, though; I learned "how are you," "chair," and "glory to God."

This week, we planned to review the shopping vocabulary and have some conversations to work on pronunciation. We started by asking how they were feeling after the chemical attack made on civilians in Khan Sheikhun, Syria earlier this week, followed quickly by the U.S. missile airstrike of a military base in Syria. We never really got back to the English lesson.

I didn't understand what they were saying, but I could read their faces. Needing to talk, the hijab-clad women passionately spewed their anger, fear, opinions, arguments for who is good, who is bad, and what is really happening. The youngest woman just sat there in silence most of the time, staring blankly at the table, her emotionless expression matched by her 1-year-old son sitting silently beside her.

I was holding the 8-month-old, trying to keep his busy hands occupied with my mint container while the women shared freely with each other and with my Arabic-speaking classmate. But suddenly I heard an inhaled gasp from the older woman beside me and turned quickly as I watched her serene, well-respected face crumple into sobs. I didn't know what was happening but before I could think my hand was on her shoulder, rubbing her back, wanting to do anything for her to know she is loved. My classmate, also in tears, came and wrapped her arms around her. She told me that yesterday had been 5 years since this woman's son had been killed in the Syrian conflict. She had 5 sons - one here in Canada with his children, one killed, and she doesn't know where the other three are. Even as she began to weep, she was trying to restrain herself, pull herself back together out of respect for our supposed English lesson.

I don't think anyone said anything while she cried. There was nothing to say. I wanted to weep but was still shocked by the reality sitting in the chair next to me, and struggling to contain a wriggling baby. The other Syrian mothers sat silently; compassionate but all-too-acquainted with these very emotions. Their eyes reddened, but they didn't sob. They had been the ones in tears before. Today just wasn't their day.

We handed her a tissue.

It seemed only appropriate that all the women were covered head to toe in black.

Someone started a conversation again, my classmate went back to her seat, but this older lady kept silent. She still shook with the shaky breaths of one recovering from the sobs, still wiping away the tears streaming from her eyes.

I wanted so badly to say something, but was kept distant by the language barrier. Though even with the language I don't think there was anything to say. But it was a moment that I knew was shaping me even as it happened. The headlines and statistics were suddenly flesh and bone, tears and shaky breaths. I sat in silence beside her.

After a bit, it seemed like they were coming around to the English lesson again, but I wasn't. I wanted her to know how sorry I was, how my heart was splintering, even as meager as that was next to her shattered one. I decided to ask my classmate to translate these carefully chosen words: "I am so sorry. I so wish I could fix it, but I know I can't do anything. But I will pray, and many others will pray with me for you. We will pray for Syria, and we will pray that you may feel God with you." I got my friend's attention and asked her to translate, but just a few words in, I felt my chest tightening. "I so wish I could fix it -" and then I couldn't speak. Tears poured out. The women, not knowing what I had been saying, noticed my collapse and weren't sure what to do. I tried to talk and say it's okay, don't worry, but the initial breath turned into a sob. I put my hand on the shoulder of the grandmother beside me, trying to communicate to her that my tears were for her son.

She smiled gently, tears still in her own eyes.

She handed me a tissue.

I won't ever forget this Friday. I won't forget the horror of trying to learn English while fighting the trauma of four missing sons. I won't forget the collective silence, the somber reality that each woman at the table had the same story. I won't forget watching the face of a grandmother who has no reason for a dead son except for corruption, for evil, and for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I won't forget the longing for justice written in her skin, underwriting the paralyzing grief.

I have no conclusions. Even between the Syrian women they dispute who is right and who is wrong. All I know is that I want to bring this woman's three other sons to her. For every refugee mother, I want to find all her children. I can't. I understand reality. But maybe we can find some. Maybe we can help one less mother weep for her children.