One of the greatest lessons that 2017 taught me was that I should put my trust in God (Yes, I know that was the same thing I said in 2015 but apparently stubborn FT never learns). It was this act of faith and trust that led me to register and attend a Catholic New Year’s conference organized by Catholic Christian Outreach, CCO in Ottawa. I have gushed about this conference online and how amazing it was. I felt the need to share my behind the scenes because I don’t want to be hypocritical and share only the so-called glamorous parts of life.
2017 was arguably one of the worst years of my life. In fact, I’m currently working on blocking it from my memory so I thought I should quickly write it all down. In 2017, I had to take a significant amount of time off school while I was about to renew my study permit. I was also caught in this chicken and egg situation of not being able to work without being enrolled and needing money to enroll. Let’s just summarize my year as being filled with a lot of tears, sleepless nights, confusion and despair. I have spoken before about how coming to Canada was a miracle. I didn’t want to believe that the same God who brought me to Canada had decided to abandon me, although I was very close to it.
About 5 months into feeling like this, I had a heart to heart talk with someone who was in a similar situation and it changed my life. My circumstances didn’t change but my perspectives did. Talking to this person who was still so joyful and faithful despite everything, really inspired me to do the same. I started doing things I enjoyed: volunteering, going out, reading, went to Stampede and most importantly, I surrendered completely. I remember at some point, I cried and I prayed “God, I surrender and if it’s not your will that I complete my degree, help me understand it”. Since December 2016, I had been 10 courses away from graduation and I switched my major to Health Sciences because it was the fastest way to graduation. Soooooooo you can imagine how hard it was for me but I am glad I did, because it filled me with peace.
So, I decided to choose joy and live life in the midst of my circumstances which included living in a different city, Calgary. On of the practical steps to doing this was that I reached out to my amazing friend, L. We met in Vancover through CCO back in 2015.I texted her that I was in Calgary and that very day, she came to pick me up for mass at her church. I realized later that her church was like 5 minutes away from her house and she came all the way across town for me. I actually used to be part of CCO until September 2015 or so, when I quit because I felt like I was being judged by one of the missionaries. Well in 2017, I found myself in a different city and needed social interaction, so I reconnected with the group. Everyone was so so nice and was going out of their way for me(and I had just met most of them!). As someone whose love language is apparently acts of service, lets just say that hanging out with them was good for me.So thank you my CCO Calgary friends especially L and E. Looking back, perhaps I should have cut ties with the person who offended me and not the group as a whole, but we are not always blessed with the gift of hindsight, until it is too late 🙂
Long story short, my sleepless night troubles were solved through an avenue that I didn’t imagine. In September 2017, I was able to return to Vancouver, resume school and two amazing on campus jobs in September. In addition, my study permit was renewed in record time(they even gave me an extra year). Since I had fun with CCO in Calgary, I decided that the group wasn’t so bad and hung around when I could with my busy schedule. I also didn’t want to be a girl that only remembered God when things were going horrible for me.
Back to the conference, I actually had zero intentions of going until I heard that Immaculée Ilibagiza would be a speaker. Now I didn’t understand why but I was so drawn to meeting this amazing woman. The only issue was that Ottawa was all the way across the country. In addition, the flights were not cheap, the conference was not cheap, I was broke and my father would literally kill me if I decided to beg people for money. Did I mention that money was a cause of my sleepless nights for majority of the year? I could not rationalize attending the conference from a financial perspective. On the other hand, there were many benefits to attending the conference and I had a response for each one in my head. 1. Meet Jesus in the blessed sacrament during adoration..I don’t need to go to Ottawa for that, my parish has adoration 3 nights per week. 2. Meet the relic of St Francis Xavier which was being flown in from Rome….the relic is going round Canada and will come and meet me in Vancouver.(Fun fact is that I absolutely love saints and relics and you can check this and this out) 3. Get a chance to meet Immaculée…this one was the only thing I did not have a response to. Something still kept tugging at my heart that I should go to this conference and meet Immaculée. And it is really funny to me because I was so drawn to her story. Please look her up on Google if you don’t know her story…what I find hilarious is that I was drawn to how forgiving Immaculée is and wickedness is my own middle name.I mean as a child, my nickname was “Efunsetan, Iyalode of Ibadan”, another cool name to search on Google. To be honest, I’m trying to change and become a nice person, little by little. So I guess Immaculée is goallls to me.
Eventually, I chose to register for RiseUp and I kid you not, the moment I did it, I felt my heart drop and I had trouble breathing for a few minutes. Then I started to cry and panic and feel anxious for making a very very very stupid decision. I couldn’t talk to my parents or friends about it because I felt like no one would get it.(Till today, I haven’t told my dad how much the trip cost me and he doesn’t read my blog so I am good). I texted a friend of my friend who I have actually never met in real life. But I have followed her blog for years and it sounded like something she would do. So she was able to convince me that it was the right thing to do and these were her exact words to me, “God sees your secret sacrifices and will reward you in public. You will dance at the end of all these trials. Remember when I shared my testimony of how God came through for me? He will do even more for you“. So praise God for A and her magical words.
After it was set that I would be going to Ottawa, I also decided to stop over in Toronto for a few days before RiseUp so I could kill two birds with one stone. After an unsuccessful search for an Airbnb with accessible bathrooms, I eventually stayed with my friend and big sister, A. We even had a mini-high school reunion on Boxing Day. Although for A and I, we were meeting for the first time because she graduated from high school before I started. One day, I will write about the sisterhood that I have been blessed through my high school friends! Anyways, A was an excellent hostess in Toronto and I left for Ottawa via the Rise-up bus.
Spoiler alert, remember the three reasons I listed for going to Rise Up and my counter reasons, well 1. Adoration was amazing. 2. I eventually was unable to see the relic of St Francis Xavier in Vancouver so it was good I went to Ottawa. 3. I met Immaculée.
Peace, love and joy,