Tag: faith (Page 1 of 3)

Seasons: Are You Living in the Now?

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…” -Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

Seasons. Each season brings a different flavour and atmosphere to our life. Like seasons of the year, each season of life holds positives and negatives. The beauty of the colours and smells of autumn also contain a chill and darkened evenings. Summer provides hot sun and luscious greenery, but mosquitoes are also a reality. We must choose what we will dwell on. How can one enjoy skating in the winter when all they can think about is swimming in the summer? Lately, I have been reflecting on my first year of university at CMU and the way that I experienced that season of my life. 

Anna Richard - Season: Are you Living in the Now?

It was somewhat of a wild year. In April, I finished a very busy first year of pre-nursing studies. Like any full-time, first-year student, there was so much to juggle and constantly keep up with. Having homeschooled for my entire previous education, I found that I was continuously just trying to prove to myself that I could indeed succeed, pass exams, handle labs and attain the grades I wanted.

For both the fall and winter semesters, I lived and breathed being productive. There was always another assignment, lab report, exam and so on. Every available evening was spent studying until I sleepily packed lunch to take with me when I would wake early to bus to school in the morning. However, there was also a lot of positive and wonderful things that I experienced during this time. As the year went on I made close friends with whom I shared much laughter, tears, and inside jokes. I navigated new and exciting relationships. I have many memories of being exhausted and uncontrollably laughing when I wasn’t supposed to during Wednesday night chemistry labs.

During that season of life, however, I spent a lot of time focusing on everything I didn’t like about being busy with school. I felt over-stimulated, longing for the day of my last exam when I would finally be DONE with the studying and stress. I would repeatedly think, when I’m finally done this year and working a summer job, then I’ll truly be able to enjoy life. When I can finally spend my evenings the way I’d like to, I’ll feel balanced again. When I no longer have the stress of assignments, life will be much brighter and hopeful.

And now my summer is coming to an end. I’ve been working at my two part-time summer jobs, and I’ve had lots of free evenings with plenty of time to myself. Guess what? Even though I have enjoyed the freedom and joy of feeling less pressured, I’ve often had moments of experiencing boredom and a lack of meaning. Some days I have felt somewhat lonely and empty even though I have been able to see my friends often.

I have filled my extra hours with activities I enjoy such as gardening, playing guitar and reading. But I have still felt a bleak sense of aloneness. Instead of taking advantage of the rest and recuperation this season brings, I have found myself at times focusing on the parts I don’t like. I have caught myself thinking about future times that will finally “make me happy”. I’ve even started looking forward to the busyness of my second year of university.

Anna Richard - Season: Are you Living in the Now?

Then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me about the beauty of living in the present moment. God is with us in the now. If we spend each season of life looking forward to the next, we completely miss out on the opportunity to embrace the gift of this moment, the beauty of now. When we choose to acknowledge the struggles of the seasons we’re in and embrace the joys, we can become aware of the signs of God’s presence that are only visible to one who is conscious of the present.

Here are three strategies that I’ve found helpful to living in the present, and I invite you to apply these to your daily life as you begin your year at CMU:

  1. Everyday, find at least three things that you are truly grateful to God for in this time of your life. This sounds quite cliché, but honestly, do it. Write them down or thank God for them out loud.
  2. When you catch yourself thinking ahead about a time you look forward to, acknowledge the thought and place it in God’s hands. Remind yourself to focus on what you’re experiencing right now.
  3. If you’re really struggling with the season of life you’re in, tell God. Tell him all the things you don’t like about it (he can take it!). But then thank him for what he’s doing in the situation, even if you don’t know what that is. Thank him for the good he’s going to make of the struggle.

As you enter in to this year of university, I invite you to embrace the present moment in this season of your life. This year may seem stressful and overwhelming, but I promise you there is much beauty to be experienced at this time in your life. This time of stress, hard work, and yet amazing community will never repeat itself in the same way.

Anna Richard is entering her second year of Pre-professional studies in Nursing at CMU.

Back to the Future: A family tradition of CMU

Back to the Future: A family tradition of CMU - Anika Loeppky playing volleyball with her highschool team.

Canadian Mennonite Bridal College? That was how CMBC, one of CMU’s predecessor colleges, was commonly referred to when both my parents were students there back in the 90’s. As the joke implies, students seemed more focused on finding a life-long partner than getting a degree! Imagine that… 

CMU has changed substantially in the past 30 years, and one program that has changed a lot is Athletics. Just like my folks, I will be playing on the CMU volleyball team, however there are a few key differences. 

While my Dad was a “Butterchurner,” I will be a Blazer. Currently, CMU has one unifying name, the Blazers, which represents all the sports teams. But when my Dad played volleyball, their team could choose their name, and somehow the “Butterchurners” won the vote. Secondly, I will be playing in the beautiful Loewen Athletics Centre, while the “Butterchurners” played out of the Shaftesbury High School Gym.  

The level of play has also greatly improved. When my Mom played, they held open tryouts in September, and essentially took everyone who showed up. (She also claims that she may have been serving underhand.)  

The CMU "Butterchurners" circa 1980.

My dad is the cool guy sporting a mullet (#15). Pay close attention to the “Butterchurner” logo on the right!

Like my parents did, I know I’ll be playing alongside a wonderful group of people, and many memories will be made throughout the season. I can’t wait to take my volleyball skills to the next level as part of the Blazers Athletics Program.

I’m also looking forward to being a part of the strong faith community and building life-long friendships.  Growing up in Selkirk, MB, I never had the opportunity to explore my faith in a school setting, so I’m excited to be immersed in a new environment that encourages me to grow in my faith. 

Based on my experiences so far, the community at CMU is inviting, caring, and most of all, accepting of everyone! Moving into residence will be a big transition for me, but it’s comforting to know that I’ll be welcomed with open arms.

Anika Loeppky sits on a bench with white rocky mountain peaks in the background.Both my parents are still in touch with people they met in dorm, and those friendships have taken our family on travels to places like BC, England, and Germany.  

Back in the day, there weren’t nearly as many courses to choose from compared to today. When I first received my registration guide in the mail, I was overwhelmed by all the courses that CMU offers. I wanted to enroll in more than my schedule could hold, which is a good problem to have! The course selection has diversified, and the academic opportunity has expanded.  

I can’t wait to finally graduate high school on June 28th! To me, that diploma will represent the beginning of a new adventure full of life-long learning, athletic endeavours, and lasting friendships. Go Butterchurners… oops I mean Blazers! What better place to embark on this adventure than at CMU? 

AnnikaLoeppky


Annika Loeppky is entering her first year at CMU this fall. She hails from Selkirk, Manitoba.

The courage to be vulnerable

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (Portrait of Jason Friesen on the Marpeck bridge wearing a grey long sleeved t-shirt with the CMU logo across the chest.)

Most of us don’t like to be in vulnerable spaces. The uncertainties of those spaces leave us with butterflies fluttering around in our stomachs. Conceding power is uncomfortable. Yet CMU is a place that exemplifies and guides us into those vulnerable spaces.

Let’s start with the classroom. One of CMU’s largest selling points is the small class sizes, which allow students to interact personally with their professors. This is completely accurate, but just saying that to a prospective student at a campus visit day doesn’t fully capture the connection between professors and students.

CMU students are not only treated to professors who interact with them, but professors who make themselves vulnerable.

I still remember taking Interpersonal Communication in my second year with sociology professor Rod Reynar. The very first class, Rod told us some of his life story. Hearing about Rod’s chronic back pain caused by inflammation around his spinal cord, and how that kept him bed ridden for years sent a strong message on its own. But his actions sent a message that would set the tone for the rest of the semester. The classroom was to be a space of sharing, where personal experiences were a valuable asset to learning. How could we students not follow suit and share of our own lives as well?

Students seated at a desk in small classroom at CMU, engaging with a professor across from them.

That invitation to make those kinds of connections is not isolated to a class focusing on Interpersonal Communication. It quickly becomes something we expect in the classroom at CMU no matter the course. Here, professors constantly ask students to connect what they are learning to their own lives, and to share those connections.

If you stick around CMU beyond class times, you become familiar with another place of vulnerability – the many student council events on campus, from the GOlympics, to coffee houses, to Film 60. Though these events are definitely aimed to provide student entertainment, there is something else going on in these spaces. It’s obvious when you see student Zach Stefaniuk perform at a coffee house, as he pipes up on a goofy song, and brings a room to a roar of laughter like only he can.

And then there are music students: they start out understandably timid in their first Thursday recital, and blossom into fine, expressive performers by the time their grad performance rolls around. 

At coffeehouses, recitals, and everything in between, students are opening themselves up to potential praise and critique. Yet students keep signing up and showing up!  They seem to like making themselves vulnerable and equally appreciate it when others do the same.

Not all acts of vulnerability are as public as the classroom or CMU events though. A space where I have seen the most vulnerability is on the volleyball team.

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (The CMU mens volleyball team line up for a team photo after winning the MCAC championships for the second year in a row.)

This past year, our team committed to doing weekly Bible studies. We read scripture, watched videos of athletes like MLB pitcher Clayton Kershaw and NHLer Mike Fisher tell their faith stories, and shared of our own experiences. And I know for a fact that we were not the only group of students doing this on campus.

Whether through fellowship groups or late night discussions in a residence lounge, signs of this type of vulnerability are scattered throughout campus, sometimes hidden in spaces most will never see.  

What is significant about these examples is that only the first scenario involves CMU faculty or staff directly. The other examples show students choosing to put themselves in vulnerable spaces. The culture of the classrooms at CMU encourages students to be vulnerable and to walk alongside others as they do the same. This culture fosters that type of living throughout students’ lives!    

We live in an age with many examples of strength associated with power and dominance. But CMU is a university that cultivates students to challenge the norm, to think critically about what we see in the world, and to draw our values from scripture rather than popular culture.

The Theologies of Power course with Irma Fast Dueck, and a reading from theologian Walter Wink’s “Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence”, follow that trend. The belief that the ends can justify any amount of violent means surrounds us in films, TV shows, and almost every story we encounter. But not the narrative of scripture. Jesus lived a life full of courage and strength, yet none of it revolved around the type of power we are used to. Instead, he showed strength through coming to earth as a child and living a life of service, and he showed courage through sacrificing his life for us. I can think of no better examples of courage and strength, and at the same time can’t fathom any greater displays of vulnerability.

Author and theologian C.S.Lewis perhaps puts it best. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” My hope is that as each of us branch out from CMU into the world, we would take the risk that Lewis is talking about.

We come to CMU as vulnerable newcomers, and when it comes time to leave, we will walk into many more situations that need vulnerable people. A friend of mine, accompanies her email signature with a quote that reads,  “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to grow? Because that’s exactly what courage, strength, love, and vulnerability call for.  Embrace that and continue to create those vulnerable spaces.

Jason Friesen wearing his black graduation cap and gown on the day of his graduation from CMU's Communications and Media program.Jason Friesen is a 2018 graduate of CMU’s Communications and Media program, and this year’s Valedictorian. He was also the lead blogger for #myCMUlife in the 2017-18 school year, and this post was adapted from his valedictory address.

Graduation: The Tassel was Worth the Hassle

I came across this catchphrase a few weeks ago as I was looking on Pinterest for graduation party ideas. Putting aside the fact that I was on Pinterest instead of writing my final paper, I paused my incessant scrolling of picture-perfect DIY ideas to consider whether or not this was true in my life.

Cristena Waldner

To give more context, I have been a part-time student at CMU since 2006. For those of you who are not great at math like myself, that’s 12 years! I still have to complete practicum but I participated in graduation on April 21.

For over a decade, I have been taking one or two courses at a time for a double major of a 4-year BA in Social Science—Counselling Studies, and a 3-year BA in English.

Combined with the fact that I am submitting this post on my 30th birthday, I have all the feels!

Since my first day of university, I have become an auntie 4 times over, gone on multiple trips, and have made great memories. But, the last 12 years have not been without sacrifice.

As a student with a physical disability, it has not been an easy road. I was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). SMA is as scientific as it sounds but the main takeaway is progressive muscle weakness. I am in a power wheelchair and the fatigue I experience on a daily basis is unfathomable—even for me, and I have had SMA since birth! I have had to work on finding balance in my life and often have to prioritize school work over friendships and relationships.

Hold on.

Am I planning a graduation party or a pity party? While it may have just sounded like I think school is draining, that is actually far from the truth!

I love university, so much so that I may be addicted to the thrill of learning something new. And don’t even get me started on the adrenaline rush of getting a graded paper back. Academic achievement has always been a passion of mine and I would not have gone to university for over a decade if I didn’t absolutely love it.

Yet, I am not graduating by my own merit. I am dedicated to my studies—almost to a fault—but I could not have accomplished this dream of mine without a few key influencers, starting with my parents.

Cristina Waldner with her parenst -

Being a student with a disability comes with its own challenges, but each of those obstacles were made better because of the tremendous support of my parents. They’ve seen it all, from the highs of me getting A’s on tests I was convinced I would fail, to the lows of the days I felt too exhausted to breathe. They have been my chauffeurs, my cheerleaders, and my distractions when I’m trying to study and they tempt me with watching Jets games. Knowing how much I love university, they have sacrificed so much in the process. I only wish they could get a diploma too because they deserve it!

My reflections on the significance of the tassel came to a head last week during my final class of the semester. While my Psychology prof was giving instructions for the final exam, my mind was preoccupied as I looked around at my classmates. I was struck by the realization that out of a class of 22 students, 19 were women. I could not help but feel in that moment a deep sense of gratitude and privilege at having obtained a university education. Not only as a woman but as a person with a disability, I felt honoured to be a part of something that one hundred years ago would have been unprecedented.

Now, I do not wish to dwell on this because it is 2018 and let’s face it, human rights have a long way to go. The movements of #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #MarchForOurLives have proved this. But it does offer some perspective into the privilege CMU students have in receiving a university education that is inclusive, safe, and full of opportunity.

This atmosphere of connection is in large part due to the faculty and staff who have a genuine passion for helping students succeed. The unwavering support of my family and the dedication of CMU staff have given me the chance to pursue my dreams far extending the classroom.

Cristina Waldner in her graduation gown surrounded by her parents on the day of her graduation from CMU.

So… was the tassel really worth the hassle?

Absolutely.

Cristina Waldner graduated this weekend with a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Counselling Studies, and a 3-year Bachelor of Arts in English.

 

Finding community and trusting God’s faithfulness

Taylor Prior - Finding community and trusting God's provision

I came to CMU after a year of Outtatown, intending to deepen my relationship with Jesus and live in community.

Not from a Mennonite background, I had a bunch of preconceived ideas about CMU. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But I held onto the idea of community in hopes that it would be as great as everyone said it would be.

A couple of months went by and I was skeptical. I hadn’t found the community I had envisioned. In this moment of doubt I leaned into the faithfulness of Jesus and his provision. I had to come to terms with the idea that things might not be exactly how I envisioned. Perhaps Jesus had a greater plan than I could write for myself.

As I let go of what I thought I needed, Jesus provided me with a group of friends who have both challenged and strengthened my faith. He provided a community of people I can laugh with, worship with, and have meaningful conversations with. 

Taylor Prior - Finding community and trusting God's provision

When I imagined community at CMU, I thought I would just instantly find my place. But it took some effort on my part, and it was something I had to grow into. With a bit of faith and trust, God provided a group of people that have been pivotal in my journey at CMU. They’ve even cultivated my newfound appreciation for the art of dumpster diving!

This past year, my first year at CMU, I have learned the importance of being rooted in Jesus’ faithfulness. And I have felt his abundance through the community he provided.

Through this community, I’m learning what it looks like to love others; to share in each other’s joy, and sit with each other in the moments that suck. Trusting Jesus’ provision has helped me to grow and become part of a community of people that makes CMU feel like home.   

In this new grounding of faith, I have experienced abundantly more than I could ask or imagine. Looking ahead, I remain confident in the good things he has in store.

 

Taylor Pryor is a first year Social Sciences student from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

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