How being known BY God changed my whole perspective on faith

being knownGrowing up in the evangelical church I found myself a young person being encouraged to know the ways  of God.  To seek after Him and know His word.  All very valid aspects to my Christian life to this day, but for some reason I found myself floundering in my faith for a decade wondering where was the freedom that Christ promised?  Why did I struggle continuously with the same issues?  Why did rejection and shame seem to get the upper hand in my mind regardless of how many hours I would spend in His word or quoting scripture?


In the past few years I have discovered greater freedom by switching my focus from just merely knowing God to allowing myself to be known BY Him.  Allow me to explain the difference.


Knowing God:  Focus on knowing His Word, what He says, an emphasis on what is truth – not only being right – but getting it right.  For me, this focused my life much on “should’s”: I should read my Bible, I should spend time with God, I should pray for how many hours a day…..   These should’s ironically only led me further away from God while I drowned in shame. I chose to run from Him because I clearly couldn’t get this Christian thing down good enough.  How could I face Him?

My striving to know God became an obsession with believing the right things, being able to hold myself up in a debate with someone of different beliefs, and held a strong emphasis over my behaviour.   The outer appearance of how I was doing was of utmost importance driving my approval-addict to go into overdrive.  I would be the Christian poster child to all, even if it meant my relationship with God was based solely on how I was “performing”.   I became so fixed on truth and getting it right that there was no room for grace for myself or others inside or outside of my belief system.  When someone “failed”, I believed it was because they didn’t know God enough. When I faced my own failure, I sank into two years of distance from God.  Clearly I didn’t know Him enough either and felt He could feel nothing but great disappointment with me.

Ironically, this focus on knowing God for me was driven by two key aspects of the Fall from the Garden: Fear and Shame.  One thing I know now is that God never uses aspects of the fall to draw us to Him, yet those were my two largest motivators in my faith.


When Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were not supposed to from the garden, their minds instantly became aware of the roots of sin: fear, shame, and pride.  Shame revealed to them they were naked.  Fear told them to hide from God and pride told them it wasn’t their fault.   What was God’s response?  Was it, “You FOOLS!!” or “How could you have done this??”.  No, His response was “WHERE ARE YOU?”  He knew exactly where they were, but here lies God’s heart for us to be known BY Him instead of striving on our own.  In His statement, “Where are you?”, He was saying; “Why are you running?  Don’t hide from me, come to Me and allow yourself to be seen, even in your mess”.


Allowing ourselves to be seen by God may be the bravest thing we will ever do. It means coming to the light and allowing Him to peer into every crevace of our soul that has attempted to look good, as well as the parts we have not yet tried to redeem, or the parts we have chosen to ignore.  Standing before Him in our nakedness, allowing Him to gaze right into our eyes despite whether we feel we’ve had time to fix ourself up for Him.  Coming to Him as is; imperfect, incomplete, broken, hurt, angry, confused, addicted, bitter and inviting Him INTO all of it.


Why do we find this so hard?  Because we’ve become experts at self redemption.  We want to fix our issues and then present ourselves to God confident that He will accept the great job we have done with our clean up job.  The problem is that in our attempts for perfection lies the greatest imperfection.  The root: pride, shame and fear of BEING KNOWN.  The great deception is that we can save ourselves.   We need to understand that sin isn’t “being bad”, it’s missing the mark; it’s rooted in all our attempts at saving ourselves.  From focus on building our own kingdoms, to doing this in the name of “being a good person”, to drinking ourselves to forget our misery.  All of it comes from the same root – but it all has the invitation to come to the light and take a tall, cold drink from Him.  A drink that we’ve truly thirsted for.


Christianity is not about being right, it’s about being known.

Christianity is not a change in direction, that we have so often heard, but a change in connection.

Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make what is dead in us come alive.  Jesus is God’s answer to “Where are you?”.  In Christ we find out who we are and what we are living for.  He becomes our author, our definition.  A faith rooted in ourselves will always struggle with personal worth and calling, but a faith that is based on allowing God to cover our lack, remove our shame and fear and make us whole is a faith that makes one truly brave.  It’s where we allow ourselves to be found.


Jesus doesn’t want you to invite Him into your life – He is inviting you into His.  It is Christ, not religion that saves us.  We focus our thoughts on how we feel in God’s presence, but have we thought about how He feels in ours?  You could say our entire Christian faith puts emphasis on serving Christ, but do we ever stop to ponder how God serves us with His great love?  He prepares the banquet, woo’s us with his love, washes us clean.  He is very much interested in a two way relationship.  If you have a hard time imagining that, it may reveal your attempt at self redemption you may not have realized. Jesus takes the concept of “seek Him with all your heart and you will be found by Him” one step further.  GOD SEEKS YOU.  He pursues you.  He comes and prepares a table for you to come and find Him and rest for your weary soul.


What is the secret?  What is the key, the ONE THING we must do to receive?  Have faith to just receive.  That’s it.  Allow yourself to be seen, be known by the One who already knows you.  Almost seems to good to be true, but that is the gospel: Cease striving and know that He is God.  Lean back and surrender to grace.


I will close with an illustration from something I learned through our son’s psychologist.  When our son with special needs would scream, hit, or be out of control we would send him to his room to “get it together”.  When he was ready to be a good boy he could come out and join the family.  This is the way I was raised.   She, however, told us that we were breaking connection with him – the one thing that could bring healing to his troubled mind.  She said instead of sending him away, we were to bring him closer in those moments and tell him nothing would break our connection with him.   The reality of “being known” by God became real to me through this.  God doesn’t send us “to our rooms” to get it together.  He holds us right there in our mess; when we’re hurling profanities, kicking and screaming.  He will never break connection with us, and just as my arms would soften my son’s rage, His arms break the ground of our hardened heart.  The warmth of His arms allows us to be brave to sink in and surrender to his embrace once again.


Being known by God.  Take a breathe and allow yourself to be seen.  May you be found in Him once again.

A look into the secret world of disconnected youth

disconnected youthYouth at risk programs and facilities are overflowing with addicted and hurting youth.  In 1995, Woods Homes had 400 youth involved in their programs. That number has now grown to 20,000 according to Madelyn McDonald.  In a CBC Special Report it was noted that 8000 young people in Calgary go into the health care system each year because of mental health issues, many of them are suicidal. Yet this only reveals a portion of the problem.


The problem is worse when we look behind the doors of every day, average homes across Calgary.  Youth are more stressed, worried, depressed, and anxious than ever.  Some are so scared to leave the house they need to be escorted to school. Some cope with their anxiety with self harm or try to ease it with marijiuna.  Schools are overwhelmed with the amount of students with special needs such as O.D.D., A.D.H.D., Conduct Disorder, Anxiety Disorders and youth on the spectrum of Austism. Parents feel helpless trying to find solutions to the issues their children are facing while keeping up with jobs needed in order to live in Calgary.  Some parents feel they need a Phd in order to know how to guide their children through their struggles.  Parents, too, are stressed, tired and exhausted from this chaotic life.  Trying to find time to research help and resources becomes a seemingly impossible task while trying to manage life.  These factors only further the root problem of disconnection.


None of these youth woke up one morning and wanted this.  Their parents didn’t either, so why are they there?  “No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it” (Albert Einstein).  If disconnection has created the problem, then we need to look at connection to solve it.


My company, Mpact Movement reveals the show, Letters, looking behind the closed doors of Calgary’s seemingly “perfect world” to connect the dots to the solution that intimate connection can bring to families.  The show will bring to light roots that are causing these hard struggles that every day families are facing.  With powerful storytelling through original songs created by local emcees Rebecca Dawn, Rubix and Cam the Human, along with urban dance, Letters tells the vulnerable story of three Calgary teens suffering from disconnection.  Our hope is that every youth who attends the show can identify with one of the characters and find encouragement to find resilience.  We also hope that parents who watch the show will leave with hope and ready to do whatever it takes to fight for their children.  The show will inspire families that hope can prevail against all odds, and that in the fear families are facing, there is courage to overcome.  In addition to the show, the program will also include direct resources to community supports that can help parents and their children.


The show will be held at the Big Secret Theatre at the Arts Commons September 30-October 4, 2015.  Tickets and more information can be found on Mpact’s website at under “our shows”.  You can also find Mpact on instagram and twitter at @mpactmovement.  See #lettersshowyyc.

I would love for you all to be there.

Mpact Movement is an artistic movement company that thinks differently.  We are about inspiring community change through our movement with a message.


What could really solve youth homelessness… it’s not another program


Does connection speak to the issue of youth homelessness and youth at risk?  Does connection speak to youth struggling with mental illness?

Indeed, it does more than we know.


Staggering stats reveal only the most severe outcomes of what it looks like when connection is void.

Out of 689 homeless youth across Canada interviewed:

43% had previous involvement with Child Protection Services

68% came from foster care, group homes

42% described growing up in a chaotic home environment

37% witnessed substance abuse in their families

There are 65,000 homeless youth in Canada and anxiety is reported as a debilitating condition for them. 33% suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, high rates of suicide


Wonder how this effects YOU?


Check this out: It costs $30,000-$40,000 a year to keep 1 youth in a shelter

That is costing taxpayers 4.5-6 billion dollars annually!  No youth wakes up and wants homelessness to be their reality. No parent wanted this for their child either. If no one really wants this reality, that means this can be avoided, but how?  Yes to youth resiliency and putting support systems in place for youth already at risk or on the streets, but what if we could prevent youth homelessness by helping families find health and connection again?  Getting a family back to health could save our country 6 billion dollars.  Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at this type of prevention.

According to Raise the Roof’s Youth Homelessness In Canada, The Road to solutions, they state, “Prevention and supports are key: Youth who are left unsupported – lacking role models, employment opportunities, educational options, access to safe, affordable housing and, all too often, in poor health and suffering from a crippling lack of self-esteem – frequently become a cost to society. Providing support now could prevent these young people from becoming homeless adults and sinking permanently into a costly cycle of homelessness and dependence on the state.  Research has demonstrated that the key to helping youth move toward the path of opportunity frequently requires appropriate interventions at the “critical moments” in a young person’s life.  Prevention addresses the key triggers of youth homelessness, which are tied to family-related issues and systems reform.”

In a recently released study, Jeff Karabanow, a professor at Dalhousie University, stated that “family life prior to street entrance was characterized by:

  • – physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse
  • – violence and substance abuse within the home
  • – family instability, including numerous transitions and moves (i.e., divorce, separation, introduction of step-parents and step-children, moving residences, changing cities and shifting living arrangements).

Prevention is the key to solving youth homelessness.  How can you and I help prevent youth homelessness?  It’s easier than you think:

  • 1. Fight for your family.  Do whatever it takes to keep your love on and stay connected. Get counselling, access mental health help, etc.  It could keep your own children from becoming at risk.
  • 2. Take care of yourself as a parent; look inside, be willing to face challenges with bravery and honesty.  Be proactive to stay health physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Eat properly, exercise, get a good sleep, take a mental health check to see if medication or counselling is needed.  Aquire good coping skills to stress that avoid alcohol and altering substances. Healthy parent, healthy children.  How many families are torn and youth in distress just because parents couldn’t cope?
  • 3. Don’t have kids of your own?  Become a part of someone’s attachment village.  Families need “aunties” and “uncles” who become positive role models to their children.  Get involved in youth mentorship. 22% of homeless youth say they don’t have a positive role model in their life.  You could change that.

CONNECTION brings resilience.  That’s something we can all contribute to and make a difference in our own sphere of influence that will naturally ripple out to affect our communities and city.

I am making a show about family connection that you may be interested in. Where there is connection, people thrive. Where it is void, all kinds of unhealthy attachments arise. We want the audience to go away with determination to fight for their families and keep their love on. What inspired the creation of this show was the question I thought one day while leaving an at risk youth program. I wondered how many youth at risk could actually have been helped earlier if parents were given tools to help their child? This is something I’m realizing through my own parenting journey with my son. His ADHD, O.D.D., depression and slight Asbergers make life challenging and I can easily see if we weren’t able to find help that he could fall through the cracks as a result of us putting our hands up in surrender. I know what it’s like to watch my son writhe in self hatred and suicidal threats. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of his uncontrollable aggression. I identify with parents who have had to hide the knives, who have spent many a night having no idea where to turn for help.

How many youth are dropped off at youth shelters or At Risk Programs with parents who just can’t cope any longer? What if those parents could be helped? What difference could be made if parents were given resources? We could save a parent, which could save a youth. Our goal is for every parent to leave the show with a new found courage and determination to do whatever it takes for their family. We also wish to provide a list of resources in the show program so they can take immediate action after being moved by the message. That is sometimes half the battle for stressed, tired parents; not knowing where to look for help, and having no time or energy to look for it.

How many youth struggling with anxiety and/or hypersensitivity need someone they identify with? Our family therapist states it well and I agree, “Every child would do better if they could”. My son once said to me; “I’m ashamed of who I am”. He often wonders, “What’s WRONG with me and why can’t I help myself??” Empathy is powerful. When a youth can identify with someone who understands, there is a beginning of hope and a journey to face the road to health. In the show, Letters, the characters face the same struggles many youth do to create this Empathy. Our goal is for every youth to leave feeling they are not alone and with a new sense they have resilience to face the future.

We also hope that the show can open new lines of communication parents and their youth. If communication lines can open up, parents can “collect” their children again, as Gordon Neufeld talks about in his book, “Hold Onto Your Kids”.

Our show, Letters, coming up at the Big Secret Theatre in just over 2 weeks (Sept 30-Oct 4) is about this exact message.  Get your tickets and become a part of the change.  Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

Stats provided on this blog post can be found at:

Why am I so angry?!


I went to see Inside Out this past weekend.  Cried like a baby through most of it.   I saw my son in the main character; the loss of silliness, interests, even friendships and family connection.  As I watched the islands of her brain crumble along with her childhood innocence, I felt the loss of my son’s innocence and wonder, only replaced by the emotionlessness, hatred, and anger I see before me today.   This journey has been the hardest thing I have ever faced. Mental illness is a hard giant to defeat. Yet in the midst of great pain, all I have felt is anger.  The movie brought to life why.


The movie was nothing short of brilliant.  With a mix of humour and fact, it brought to life many mental health points, one of which I would like to highlight as a great crisis we face as parents, teachers and adults working with young people; that is the concept of sadness.  And I promise, I will get to why I’ve been so angry.


In the movie, it’s the character Sadness who saves the day, not Joy.  This is profound for us to understand.  Joy, in her epiphany says, “It’s Sadness! When Sadness is there, adults come to help”.  This is true.  When we are overly concerned with our children being “happy” we don’t give them the opportunity to let us peer into the corridors of their inner life.   The problem in our society is that we just don’t know what to do with “sad”.  We want to fix it and get happy back as soon as possible. Perhaps this could be a part of the contribution to the increase of depression and anxiety in children today?


I may have been guilty of this when our youngest was born.  I was so fixated on making sure our son was happy, that I don’t believe I let him feel the saddness and frustration of such a life change.  The result?  Fast forward to the present where my eldest deeply hates his little brother.  No emotion has replaced any emotion at all.  You could say the birth of our second is what caused the deep spiral downwards of our oldest.  Sometimes we need to stop and see the sacred in sadness.  We need to sit in it comfortably and let empathy become us.  It’s a place where the words, “I’m here” may be all we need to say.


  • Neurologically, frustration needs to turn into feelings of futility in order for us to learn to adapt to new situations in life.  When our emotions are too hardened to permit sadness about something that greatly disappointed us, frustration takes prominence.  Sadness is the emotion we feel when we are experiencing futility, along with disappointment and grief.  When anger doesn’t turn to sad, we do not learn resilience, but when tears are allowed, adaptation has a hope to be created.  These feelings require vulnerability. To allow ourselves to feel it is to come to terms with the limits of our control.  It’s surrender, you could say.


  • Here lies the problem with many of the issues we are facing with young people today: If futility (sadness, grief, disappointment) isn’t felt, one is more prone to aggression.  Bullying, abuse, outbursts of anger – these could be results of locked in emotion.  “Instead of tears of futility, there are drops of blood from cutting oneself.  Instead of sadness and disappointment, there is sarcasm and contempt.  Instead of facing oneself, we attack others.  When futility doesn’t sink in there is a failture to let go and a failture of existing limits.  Without adaptation there is no resilience in the face of adversity or ability to recover from trauma. Tears are the antidote.  They keep us soft and human.” (Gordon Neufeld in Hold Onto Your Kids) No futlity = emotional self numbing that can lead to addictions.  We wonder why this generation is gripped by addiction to sex and dope?


  • We need to be brave to take this journey ourselves and allow our children to make the trek from anger to saddness with our support.  This means us coming to terms with our own sadness.  When I was young, emotion was seen as a sign of weakness.  My British father would scold me if I showed tears.  Years of disappointment with my marriage in the early years made me hard, forgetting the softness of uttering words such as “I forgive you”, with the moist tears of pain clearing my body of bitter toxins.  There has been much healing that has come just by uttering the words: “This is painfu! This is unfair!  I can’t do this!!” accompanied by tears of deep grief.  It has allowed me to come to terms with the hand that has been given to me.   Happiness is not my goal – resilience is.  The capacity being creating in the crevices of my inner workings has great depth due to grief being given freedom of expression.   Every time I allow myself to feel grief, loss, disappointment with everything that encompasses this journey; anger loses some real estate.   I was so busy trying to reach the expectation I had on myself to be brave and get back to “happy” that I forgot to feel. 


Now for my son.  His hardened heart shows me that he, too, desperately needs permission and room to “feel” again.  How to navigate this?  That’s where professional help is being pursued.  As I control the one who I CAN control; me, and allow myself to take this brave journey, I pray it paves the way for him.  I pray it gives you hope as well.


Brave on, friends.  Time to feel again.

Confessions from a crazy, yelling mother

One of the greatest things I am learning in my journey with my son is that I cannot control him.  I can only control me…. and man, am I ever awful at controlling me.

When I’ve repeated the same instruction sometimes NINE times,  the tenth time usually features me blowing my lid.   Add in other factors of the unique issues we face with special needs and it becomes exhausting.  But I’m realizing it doesn’t have to be.  The reason it’s exhausting is because I want control, and when I don’t get it, I react from my feelings of powerlessness.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an explosive control freak that will flip out when I don’t get my way.  Yet as much as I may not like to admit it, when my world isn’t the serene picture I have idealized in my mind, my emotions run wild.  Why?  Because I’m a crazy, mad-woman?  (maybe sometimes), but mostly it’s my last attempt at grasping onto some form of affirmation that despite my sinking ship, “I am still in charge here!”.  Ironically, I am aware of my downhill spiral as I make one final attempt to loudly pronounce, “You’re having a bath and that’s final!!”


The only person I can control is me.  This is a deep work happening inside of me presently.  Love does not seek to control.  In fact, if I seek to control my child, I am assisting at increasing anxiety in not only my own life, but theirs.  No matter how large the issues we are dealing with regarding our children; from serious issues Oppositional Defiance or Conduct Disorder may bring, to the toddler screaming, “NO!” we have to manage our own anxiety to guard the connection our children have with us.  Doing this is harder work than getting a child to comply.   It’s easy to use fear of punishment or “mom losing it” to get a child to obey – but it comes with a great cost; the cost of connection.  Rebellion isn’t a behavioral issue – it’s a connection issue.


The only time we have influence in our children’s lives is when connection is there.


Neurologically when we are frightened, something called the Amygdala in our brain releases adrenaline into the blood stream bringing us to a “fight or flight” stance.  We then seek to guard ourselves from the perceived danger.    When we are scared, all we can think of is protecting ourselves.  Imagine then, a child being yelled at time and time again?  Imagine what the Amygdala in overdrive is doing to the parent/child connection?  Becoming aware of this has impacted me greatly.


Love is not about fear or control – it’s about freedom.  Anxiety decreases when there is safety and freedom from control.  My job as a parent is to create that environment for my children, even when they are not listening; even when my son is standing up yelling all sorts of profanities and cruelty.


With a rapid increase in child depression and anxiety, there is no greater time needed for us to learn to manage our emotions.  If you’ve been with me in the upper octaves, you don’t need any more guilt on this.  What we need is to face it with courage and take every day one step at a time and celebrate every victory and not wallow when we succumb to defeat.  I had an opportunity the other day in a time of connection with my son to say this to him: “Son, no parent wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I’m going to really fail at this parent-thing today’.  We are all just broken people trying to do our best”.  I believe as we’re honest with our children along the way, this can build connection and trust.  It can create a home that says, “It’s ok to make mistakes, we’ll work it out together” – for both the child and us.


I’m not going to lie, writing this blog took some courage because by no means do I want readers thinking I’m a yelling maniac, but I do have areas of emotion that I see can use better management.  I’ve heard some great advice on HOW to do this which I am happy to share with you.  I have seen significant improvement by applying these daily (sometimes by the minute)


1. Make the decision not to argue with your child.  When things are heated, walk away and say “We will talk when we have all calmed down”.  Instead of sending the child to their room where they would feel punished or isolated, remove yourself from the room.  Communicate this clearly: “We will talk when things are calm”.  I sometimes set the timer for 15 minutes to give my children a concrete way of knowing when we will resume conversation that can lead to resolution of the issue.  I need this time just as much as they do.  As a matter of fact, most of the time I feel the timer is for me more than them.

2. When your child is upset, empathize with their feeling instead of getting upset.  Eg: “I can see you are frustrated”.  This allows them to move from being uncontrollably upset, to feeling safe with you.  Empathy disarms.  Sometimes you may want to leave it at this.  No one wants to reason or think of solutions when upset.  Wait until everyone is calm to talk things through and come to compromise if needed.

3. Get onto your child’s level.  Instead of raising your voice from across the room to reach them, come to them and their eye level and speak to them directly.  This has helped me curb saying things 9 times.  Another practice I have started is to tell my son directly in his eyes how many times I’ve asked him to do something.  Eg :”This is now attempt #7″. This way he also understands what I mean when I’ve said before, “I told you SEVEN times”.  The only thing with this is that I must remain calm when carrying this out.  I can’t say it with any hint of frustration, but just as a matter of fact in order for the message to come across properly.

4. Pick your battles.  Does it REALLY matter what hairstyle they’ve chosen or what they’re wearing (if it includes more than just underwear).  Thinking before freaking out: in the light of the big things that matter, does this require going over the top?  Thinking ahead, will making this a big deal break connection?

These have helped me tremendously.  These have come from counselling at The Eckert Centre as well as from the book, “Loving Your Kids On Purpose” by Danny Silk.


Getting a grip on what to do has been a first step, but how-to’s rarely work without digging deeper as to WHY the emotional upheavals. This has been a courageous, yet needed journey that I will write about next time.  Till then, keep being brave dear friends.  Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

How this successful man came out of life at risk – hope for vulnerable youth

DaveI recently participated in a non profit event in my city called “Fast Pitch”.  This is where I met Dave Bonk who runs an amazing non profit called “Hearts and Hammers” that fixes up homes for people with disabilities so families can stay in their home and together.  I met Dave for coffee and was amazed at his story and resilience. He, once a vulnerable youth, has over come much in his life.  I wanted to share his story on my blog for those who perhaps are at risk right now themselves, or if you work with youth at risk.  Also for parents who may have a youth at risk of the same that Dave went through, I know his words will encourage you and give great advice to youth in need of some inspiration.  Dave will be coming alongside Mpact and myself in a few weeks to speak to youth at risk in various school assemblies.  I pray his story encourages you, and thanks Dave for allowing yourself to be seen.  May your courage spark bravery in others. – Connie

Dave Writes: Street PHD – Education for the Wild Ones

As I put the car into Reverse and started backing out, I heard the child in the back seat. This stolen car is turning  into a child abduction. I quickly re parked the car and we got out, RUN. Another driver in the 7-11 parking lot witnessed what we attempted and was on the phone with the police as he chased us. As I lay in the dirt under a bush of a nearby field, feeling the heat of the police search light, I contemplated my life and the dangerous risky game I was playing.
When I was 13-15 years old I was certainly on a path to destruction. For these 2 years, I was not in school, had run away, slept on couches, floors, jail, and was just generally a screw up. Classified by police as a violent offender at 14 years of age, and voted by teachers, youth pastors, and my community as the most likely to end up going nowhere, or worse.

Hi! I’m Dave Bonk. I’m 36 years old, owner of real estate investment company, founder of a non profit organization that changes lives, award winning speaker, and father of a 12 year old boy. I’ve travelled the world, live in an estate home, and have everything I could want. Life is good! So how did I get here from there? A high school drop out with no family support, having loser friends, and a young offender record to now, a respected contributor to society, a successful person who makes a difference.  That’s what I’m here to share with you or someone you know; hope and the knowledge that it is possible, against all odds, to succeed no matter what your circumstances, economic situation, formal education, family support, or past. Here are 4 key principles absolutely anyone can incorporate despite their age.

#1-Purpose and Intuition.

My assent forward begins at 15 years old, walking down the street with a garbage bag of clothes away from my parents home, never to sleep another night in my bedroom. Kicked out for the last time, I sat on some grass waiting for a bus to take me somewhere I didn’t know. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon, sky was blue, I wiped the tears from my eyes and said to myself that I will succeed. I spent the next months on whatever piece of carpet or couch I could find, at one point, hiding for months in an unfinished basement of my, at the time, girlfriend’s grandmother’s place so I did not have  to be on the streets. During that time, I looked for a job and was finally offered a position at a car detail car wash. The money offered was ok but as I looked around the manager’s office environment who was hiring me, I knew that there was no future in this so I declined that position. This was the first of many times that people called me crazy. Listen, if you’re going to get a job, make sure you look forwards in that career and like what you see. A few days later I answered a classified ad for a job in Hardwood flooring, it read ‘must be honest, reliable, and hardworking. Must have vehicle.’ Well, I was too young to drive but I knew I had the rest, so I met with the boss and got the job. I worked hard for that boss and received a $1/hour raise every few months, bought a $1000 car, got a basement suite, and was now living paycheck to paycheck! While my friends and peers partied, finished high school, went to post secondary; I worked hard, and worked closely with the owner of that small business. I went along with him to do the estimating and sales, meet with suppliers, and I eventually managed other staff as the company grew. By working with a small company, I was able to not only learn the technical aspects of the flooring trade but also the business aspects. This was very valuable education, and by the time I was 20, I opened my own flooring company, Boardwalk Flooring Inc. Yes I was the newest and youngest player in this already competitive industry, but I had an edge. Being young and looking at things from an innovative perspective proved to be valuable. As the age of internet was just beginning, I capitalized, and had one of the first and best sites up which gained us brand awareness, credibility, and new clients. There are many industries ripe for innovation and the young newcomers are the ones who will see it and profit from it.

So that’s success principal #1-  Look for entry positions that you want the bosses job/lifestyle and provides opportunity for you to learn his or her job, ie small business. Make sure it’s an industry you think you would enjoy and don’t worry about what the crowds are saying, trust your intuition. Don’t get caught up in fear and just take the first thing that comes along; look up and over the situation from a higher level. Think about what is best for you in accordance with what you feel your natural gifts, talents, and purpose are.

#2- Who are your friends

When my family moved from small town Saskatchewan to Calgary when I was 12 years old, I found myself bussed to an inner city school and had to remain there over the lunch hour. I not only didn’t wear the ‘right’ clothes, but I knew NO ONE. I was very uncomfortable with this and as my family moved several times within Calgary so did my school. By grade 9, I learned how to fall quickly into a crowd, the trouble makers turned out to be the most accepting. As there were also problems at home for me with regards to my parents fighting and financial difficulties, I quickly found myself skipping school and not going home at night. My so called ‘friends’ held me to absolutely no standard and I could do no wrong. There was no real loyalty or love in those relationships, just people to be with while we all trudged through our troubled and aimless  young lives. Here’s an example of my best friends.. When I was 14, things were bad at home, and at school, I was in trouble with the law and just wanted to RUN. A friend of mine and I decided to run away to New York, how would we get there…train. I knew where the train yard was and I was prepared to jump on one and head out of town, thrilled that I had a buddy agree to do it with me. So we agreed, in 2 days time we would meet at night and off we go!  In the meantime, we were  to gather as much money as possible for the journey from wherever we could. I snuck out of my house late the night of the meet and found that my travel buddy was not alone. He’d brought another guy and the intention was to rob me and leave me. RUN. So, on my lowest moment, totally alone and vulnerable someone who was supposed to be my friend tried to benefit from that. Listen, on our paths in life there will absolutely be ups and downs. On those bad/low days we need our friends, if our friends are all sitting on bar stools they will not be able to support us and we will all end up lying on the floor. If our friends are strong, stable supports, we will merely lean into them and not fall at all. We don’t need to fall all the way down when life has trouble; it’s hard to get up from a long fall. Sometimes, what needs to happen however is that we fall hard, life needs to teach us something. We need our friends and people in our lives to pull us up. That’s still my litmus test for any relationship I enter into, does this person drag me up or down.

#3- Integrity and Credit

At 14 years old, I had a job at Petro Canada pumping gas, on a slow night I filled out an application for a credit card that was sitting by the till. I lied on the application, said I was a doctor and made oodles of money!  A few weeks later a credit card came in the mail; with no concept of what I was doing I quickly racked up the card and soon after, the phone started ringing. Let me tell you, the creditors were ruthless and unrelenting. I eventually paid back the credit company, but my credit was ruined for the next 5 years. Although I turned my life around, had a job, an apartment, and an interest in getting ahead, my inability to get any credit was an obstacle. I learned my lesson at a young age how valuable credit is. You need money to make money, and if you can’t get money because your credit is poor, you’re going to be out of luck. Trust me when I say, opportunities will come along for you, whether it’s to buy real estate or invest in a company; having the financial tool of good credit is very important.  So, not only do I now have an excellent credit score with the banks but also with my friends. If I need to borrow $300,000 to buy a property, I can make a few phone calls and have that done. This is just like credit but is due to personal integrity. Be someone who does what he says, when you say you’ll do it. When it’s not possible to keep your word, address it right away. Send a text saying you’ll be 5 minutes later than you committed. If you forget to do something you gave your word to, call the person you committed to and acknowledge you didn’t do it and recommit to a timeline. People will respect you and learn that you are a person of integrity. They will trust what you say to be true, it’s like money in the bank, believe me. A rule I strive to live by is, ‘To have what I say be so’. I mess up all the time, whether its’ over embellishing a story I heard on the news, exaggerating a past accomplishment, or overstating my experience, it happens sometimes that we say things that we don’t mean to say.  In those moments, we stop and think, that’s my opportunity to clean it up and say, wait a minute, I would like to take  back what I just said and clarify what I meant by that. People will not only be very gracious with you but also trust you. I don’t want to beat this topic to death but it’s so important, here’s one more example of how to take integrity to the highest level: When you’re in a conversation with someone and you zone out and completely miss everything the person said in the last 2 minutes, instead of just smiling and nodding, stop the conversation and politely say, ‘sorry I checked out for a second, I really want to understand what you’re saying could you please repeat that?’. It’s common for people to zone out; it’s uncommon for us to value the other person and their time enough to ask them to repeat themselves.


When I was 13, a friend’s dad hired me by the hour to load a pile of garbage into a dumpster in front of a home renovation project he owned. It was a gloomy Saturday morning, I was totally unsupervised, and I worked as hard as I could. I always enjoyed work, the financial rewards, and to please my boss was always very fulfilling to me. With this attitude, I didn’t spend very many years working for others before I started my own company.  When my friend’s father returned to the site and found that I had completed the job in just 2 hours, he not only gave me a bonus but hired me for the whole summer. This is one of the very few things I did not need to learn the hard way in my life, but I definitely see the laziness, slowness, and uninspired action of a lot of people out there. It’s a way for you to rise above the crowd, put your heart and back into everything you do. Show initiative and run at challenges. Set your goals high and don’t let not knowing how to do something stop you from doing it. The important thing is to start with the first step, you don’t need to know how to do step 4 until you’re standing on step 3.  By the time you’re standing on step 3, you’ll know how to do step 4 and there will be people there to help you.

So although I was unable to follow the traditional path of formal education, I certainly by no means advocate dropping out of high school and missing out on all the rich opportunities that post secondary can provide. They write books about the one in 10,000 guys who can say they succeeded despite a  formal education, you don’t ever hear about the 9999 whose lives did not live up to their full potential. For those of you like me, who absolutely cannot complete your education, know there is hope and you are capable of HUGE amazing things in your life. For those of you who can take your formal education to more standard levels, consider adding these principles to your life: Intuition, Friends, Integrity, and Hard work, they will serve you well. I highly value education, there’s just more than one way to get it.

“Some complain roses have thorns, me, I’m thankful thorns have roses”

Dave Bonk

Dave C Bonk lives in Calgary, AB Canada. He is passionate about domestic dog rescue, creating affordable housing, and adjusting trajectory of troubled youth. If you would like to contact Dave to speak at your event please contact,


When my son says, “I’m ashamed of who I am”


As a parent in the midst of a hard journey with a son with special needs, the statement, “Less guilt, more awareness” couldn’t ring any more true.  These are extremely hard posts to write because we’re not past this; we’re in it, and it’s painful.  I know there are many out there as well.  I want to be brave, show up and be seen so others journeying through similar know that you aren’t alone.


This weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with my son while my hubby and youngest son went to visit grandparents in BC.  It was nice to be able to give him my undivided attention and time which is something I believe he needed.


Even through having this special time together, my son lashed out at me as he does almost on a daily basis now.  Since January, my husband and I have watched our son relapse into anger, self hatred, and what almost looks like borderline personality disorder.  He can be fine one minute, and unstable the next.  School and being with friends are times he can function without this instability, but at home it is a whole different story.  There are fits of rage, hurling profanities, and threats to call the police on us for things such as insisting he take a bath, or because we won’t get him what he wants right now.


To say this has been draining wouldn’t do justice to how exhausted my hubby and I are presently.  It’s hard to have someone lash out at you daily when all you are trying to offer them is love.  Finding help has been painfully slow and frustrating.  We have seen our doctor who has referred us here and there only to find dead ends.  Each passing day I feel we lose precious time to help our son out of his miry pit.  We are thankful in early June to be seeing the Eckert Centre where our son was first assessed as we know our son will get the help he needs immediately – but with a great cost to our pocket book.  At this point, we are desperate to see him thrive.  It’s hard to watch him in a downward spiral.  We know money can get the help we need, which seems like just a great injustice to those who are struggling, us included.  We just got out of debt.  Will this only put us right back?  However, if it saves our son and our family it will be worth every penny.


As hard as this has been on us, my son is the one who suffers most.  After calming down, we were able to talk about his outburst.  After telling him how much he is loved by us, I said to him, “Son, you never need to be ashamed of who you are.”  What he said next ripped my heart in two;


“Mom, I always feel ashamed of who I am”.


There they were.  The words from a son who’s mother studies and implements resiliency for her living.  These words speak of a boy in torment; someone who is not thriving; who has lost connection and a sense of belonging. My son, not one of the vulnerable youth I work with.  My own.  Where did I go wrong?  Where have I missed it with him or have not been enough to see him through this terrible mindset?   Those who work in counselling and social work know that this thought is where many negative behaviors come from.  We often only see someone who is angry, or “bad”, but inside there is someone greatly hurting.  That someone right now is my son.


Working with youth at risk in group homes or institutions in my city only makes my heart break for my son all the greater.  Knowing that if there is no intervention, how close he is to this reality is a thought too scary to for me to want to ponder.  This has made me hunger for more who are in the same boat. Where is the immediate help for families?  There has to be a better way than to drag an already anxious child from stranger to stranger who in the end becomes resistant and hesitant towards getting help?


I will not give up on my son. I will continue to let nothing break my connection with him, even when he fights it.  I will keep asking the hard questions to the system and the way we offer help to families.   I will continue raising awareness about mental health so we can offer more empathy rather than judgment towards the children like my son. In the end, judgment will only decrease their resiliency and cause more shame.  It will hinder parents from being honest and vulnerable about their journey and cause them to hide rather than getting the help they need


If you are someone who doesn’t understand mental illness, you can make a difference by:

–  listening without judgment to those struggling.

– ask questions, seek to understand and then ask, “How can I help?”

– don’t isolate those struggling mentally.  My son recently told me his friend’s  mom doesn’t “like him”.  This brought great shame to his heart.  It is challenging sometimes to learn someone like my son’s struggles, but for those who have offered him acceptance and have heard myself out as well, we have only seen the best in my son come forward.


Community is only as strong as the belonging we create for all, and There is great resilience when there is belonging.  Creating space where all can belong is the start to individuals and communities thriving.


I would love to hear your stories if you have similar struggles.  You can email me at



I’m ready to talk about our journey with our son’s mental health


I have been absent a year from my blog.  Feels strange to type again, the flow of words are slow to my mind, but I feel I have something to say… I just hope I can make sense of what still is very confusing to me.


In light of mental health week, I am ready to share a bit of the journey I have walked with my son.  The path we have walked with him has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to face in this life so far. Much of the reason I haven’t written in a year is because of what we have gone through in our family and the focused energy I have had to devote to work and home. But I’m ready to talk about it now.


When my son was born, he had what is called a strong “counterwill“.  Him being our first, we couldn’t tell if this was normal or something more.  Through his toddler and preschool years I wondered if this was just him being a “boy” or if there was something more to the behavior he was displaying.  Our son was seldom happy, always needing something to stimulate his mood to lighten.  Some holidays were cut short because of how hard he would make it for us to all just relax and enjoy by his outbursts of anger and malcontent.  Yet I also noticed some interesting characteristics about my son that intrigued me.  Things like when he would ask what time it was.  I would usually round it off saying, “It’s 1:15″, and after looking at the digital clock after my son would promptly reply, “No, it’s 1:16″.  I would listen in amazement when he would count from 1-200 and then from 200-1 backwards at the young age of 2.  There was something special about him, there was no doubt, but the constant opposition and arguing made me wonder if I was truly cut out for this parenting gig.


School breaks and weekends were a nightmare, turning into constant turmoil, leaving my husband and I exhausted.  Shame would flood my soul when chatting with moms in moms groups about how mortified they were when there child would say something like, “stupid”.  How could I tell them I was trying to curb my son dropping the “f” bomb?  I would shrink away from these groups with overwhelming guilt, wondering where I went wrong as a parent.  “I’m a good person.  This isn’t supposed to happen to good families!”, I would cry out to myself driving away yet again in tears.


I finally had enough and called a psychologist just before my son’s 6th birthday.  I chose a private group because I heard waiting for an assessment in public health could be up to a 2 year wait.  I was not willing to wait that long.  I knew we needed to intervene in our son’s life now.  A thorough assessment was done in a matter of no time, but with a bill of $5000.  Our son was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD, mild Asbergers and Depression.  It was a lot to take in.  On one hand I was relieved, knowing that we weren’t imagining how hard our journey really had been.  On the other hand, I had no idea how we were going to navigate forward knowing all of this.  I’ve never been into “labels” and promised myself I would never let this diagnosis define my son – in my eyes, his eyes and in the eyes of others.  Yet I realized having this diagnosis would help people understand our son a bit better, rather than just casting judgment on him.


We learned a valuable tool called “attachment parenting”.  We couldn’t afford any more counselling or therapy so we ventured into learning how to parent our son the way he needed.  Through this we discovered that sending our son to his room when throwing fits of rage was not in his best interest.  The psychologist told us to bring him closer in these moments. This was hard for me to understand at first, being raising in a strict, British home.  I thought this would only reward his unruly behavior, but I decided to give it a go.  After this, we no longer would send our son to his room but pull him into our arms and tell him how much we loved him and how nothing would break our connection with him.  When he was too violent to let us do this, we would keep him in the same room.  Through this we saw our son soften and even improve.  Turns out, connection is what he was crying out for.


There is much I can say about all this which I will leave for future posts if I can manage, but I want to leave readers with probably one of the most profound truths I have learned through this journey: CONNECTION HEALS.  Disconnection, isolation only increase these unwanted behaviors because they are actually a cry for help.  “Look at me!!”   Telling our son that nothing will break our connection with him has given him a place of safety with us.  In my work with vulnerable youth I can now see with fresh eyes their same cry for unconditional love.  They need someone to say: “I won’t give up on you”.  It’s hard holding someone who is kicking and screaming out profanities with hatred toward you.  But in those moments you really learn a little more what love may look like.


Love stays.  Love says; I will hold you in your mess.  You don’t have to change to make me feel better or secure.  I will be here until you feel safe again.  You don’t have to have it all together to earn my love.  I got you and I won’t let you go.  You are safe.  Interesting, in my christian faith I’ve come to the realization that THIS is exactly what God does.  It’s kinda blown my mind as of late.


Parents, don’t give up.  I would love to hear your story if you have one.


My next show is on this very subject.  Feel free to check out our show trailer here.  Letters; a show about thriving through connection.  Big Secret Theatre Sept 30-Oct 4 2015, Calgary, AB.

5 ways to know if you’re really about community as much as you think you are

communitySo here’s the thing about community.  Everyone talks about it.  Everyone wants it and at the end of the day, we actually NEED it.  However, our culture values community with words, but individualism with actions.  When the rubber hits the road, its often not about “we”, it’s about “me first”.  If “we” becomes the end result it becomes a bonus.


We all love the idea of community, but to love the idea of community will only end in us breaking community.  We must truly love one another, preferring one another above ourselves for authentic community to flow naturally.  The reason community often fails is because we want what we want first.  We want our freedom, our dreams, our desires.  We have been sold an individualistic message that tells us these come first, but in order for God’s idea of community to manifest, we must lay down our freedom for one another.  This is where we know we’re not just talking about love, but living it.  Love that is shown through sacrifice is sacred.  Jen Polluck Michel puts it this way in her book, “Teach Us To Want”, “Community, you could say, puts a restraint on desire”.  There’s a message we don’t hear much of: embracing our restraints for the sake of one another. We are so accustomed to consuming that the idea of investing of lives for the sake of others indeed sounds inspiring, but is often the road less travelled.


It’s important to get passed the theory of community that most will nod in agreement to and commit to work out the nitty gritty of what God’s idea of community truly looks like.  I believe it starts with a simple statement; “I see you”.  In order to “see” one another, we have to remove the blinders that keep us focused on ourselves; when we “see” one another, we take a glimpse into another’s soul.  When we do this, our eyes open to see the DNA of our Father placed in one another.  We see the wonder of our creator reflecting in the eyes staring back at us.  When we can see God in and at work in another’s life this does wonders for creating community.  How?


1. It changes the way we hold one another accountable.  Instead of seeing sin in the life of another, we see who they truly are and hold them accountable to that.  Because of our great love for one another, we call each one up to the destiny and identity they have been given by our Father.


2. We walk and journey with the broken and commit to them until we see them reach victory.  We don’t expect everyone to have it together before they can be a part of the community.  We are not afraid to get our hands dirty to do whatever it takes to see us all cross the finish line together.


3. We aren’t afraid of one another.  When we see our Father in each other, there is no color of skin, rich or poor, male or female, slave or free.  We see the oneness and find the common ground of our adoption into His kingdom.


4. Jealously, greed and pride find no place among us.  If we lay down our freedom, we find joy when others succeed.  We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.


5. Poverty is eliminated.  Being growing up in a Pentecostal church, I often heard about the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to the first believers.  I have heard much about the signs and wonders that followed.  What I didn’t hear much about is how they had no need among one another because they gave everything they had and shared.  As radical as this sounds, this may be one of the most profound ways to know whether we are truly about community as much as we say we are.  How can I walk along side my brother carrying empty bottles and not see him as a part of my city, my community?


If we take HIs idea of community seriously and are willing to lay down ourselves for the sake of others we may be on the brink of not only just understanding God’s heart, but seeing the cultural shift for the sake of the Kingdom we have all been praying and yearning for.

This will totally change the way you’ve looked at “sin”

badshirtSin.  What a nasty word.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get some sort of ick feeling when they hear it.  I certainly don’t like the word that much.  It carries with it a drastic range of emotions from elitism, to shame, to the middle finger raised up to it.  Images of street preachers on boxes preaching doom and turning from the fires of hell come to my mind.

Sin. No one really knows what to do with it.  Christians don’t, atheists don’t, your average person just trying to do good in the world doesn’t either.  In fact, not only do we not know what to do with it, we would rather pretend the word doesn’t exist at all.  It truly becomes a place where offence can easily take place.  It creates a sense of “higher/lower”, “us vs them”, you’re “in or out” that people strait up just don’t like.

But maybe we’ve got the idea sin all wrong?

The original greek word that “sin” came from is hamartes which means “to miss the mark”.  I was sure it would mean, “to break the rules”, but that’s not the case.  Interesting..

Each one of us carries a piece of the Father’s DNA in us.  He carefully designed each one of us with His beauty and His wonder.  My friend described God’s creation of us beautifully by reminding me that God “spoke” everything into existence, but with man He knelt on the ground, formed us with his very hand and breathed into us.  He created us to experience the vastness of His realm.  Inside each of us is His very kingdom.  We all have a special part in this world that is valuable and honored by Him.   Sin isn’t to do “bad things”.  Sin is to miss this wonder.  Sin is to become less than we were created for.

Yes, sin is to fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).  This verse so commonly used has very often been shaming as if to say; “You have fallen short.  You have been bad, wrong and God’s had to save your sorry butt so you better start writhing in sorrow for the awful things you’ve done”.   I like the way Eugene Peterson’s, The Message refocuses the verse back onto God’s true intention.  Romans 3:23 in the Message states: “Got set things right”.  The focus is back on God’s heart to do whatever it takes to bring us back to our true identity, not on all the shit we get ourselves into.

If you’ve invited Jesus into your life, your life will be marked with trying, striving.  Your emphasis will become, “I have fallen short”.  You will focus on “sin” and “behaviour”.  On the other hand, if you realize Jesus is actually inviting you into HIS life you will be able to receive what He is giving: restoration of who you actually are.  You are precious, chosen and full of God’s wonder.  He did all that was needed to provide the way for you to rediscover this.  No striving, no effort needed; just receive it.

I just finished the most remarkable book I’ve ever read; The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  If you are on any journey to find true faith in Christ, or if you’re drained from Christianity’s do’s and don’t’s this book is something you need to dive into.  One of the greatest revelations I received from the book was about forgiveness and repentance.  I always thought that you “repent” so you can be forgiven.  But it’s actually the other way around.  God has already completely provided forgiveness.  To repent (change our mind or destructive behavior) is actually a sign you’ve truly entered into that forgiveness.  Mind blown.  That completely has revolutionized the way I approach God, especially after I’ve screwed up.

As my friend Jen writes in her book, “Teach Us to Want”, “The truth about sin is that we want too little.  We sin by wanting too much from God, but we also sin by wanting too little”.

Sin is settling for objects, behaviours and mindsets that take me away from who I was meant to be.  I’ve actually said to my kids when engaged in negative behaviour, “Stop because this isn’t representing who you actually are”.  Then I proceed to tell them who they are; you are kind, you are gentle, you are self controlled.  Words are powerful.  I’m in no way perfect at this and don’t do this in the heat of typical momma-reaction-mode, but it is something I’m trying to cultivate as I feel this is what God does with me.  “Connie, that’s not who you are, this is who you are really….”

This mindset has not only helped me draw closer to God through mishaps that have come my way that usually would shame me to run from Him, but it has also given me a different point of view when looking at people caught in destructive behaviours, habits and mindsets.  They are not “sinners” to me.  They are beautiful people who have forgotten who they really are.

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