Humbled at McDonald’s in Canada

We are currently on vacation in my husband’s home country of Canada. And even though I’ve been here many times, there are still a few things that catch me off guard on every visit. For one thing, the Great Lakes are really, very great. How foolish I must have sounded when I asked my then-boyfriend if he had ever been to the beach, and then presumed to tell him it didn’t count because it wasn’t the ocean! The little island we went to on this trip had a sandy beach facing Lake Ontario. As I looked out at the endless water and watched the waves roll in, I was just as serene as I was last summer when we went to a “real” beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

This isn’t the only thing about Canada that humbles me. Every time I do the dishes here, I remember how most people do not have garbage disposals. It’s just not an appliance that has ever caught on here. People could afford them; they just don’t see the need. New homes don’t come with them installed. Apartments and townhouses don’t have them. But back when I was a know-it-all, twenty-something-year-old who discounted her boyfriend’s beach experiences, I also refused to accept the reality about garbage disposals and Canada. Surely, there was some sort of mistake, I thought. Maybe I just needed to say the right word – it’s “garburator” in Canadian, not “garbage disposal,” after all. And so, when I moved to Canada, I insisted we call every apartment complex remotely close to Toronto and ask if they had a unit for rent with a garburator. As you probably guessed, the answer was always the same. Flushing my cereal down the toilet and scraping plates into the trash weren’t totally new to me. I’d been to many countries before and even lived in France. I just had it in my head that the differences between Canada and the United States were not quite as big as this. As it turns out, the differences between our two incredible countries aren’t so big. Shockingly, a garbage disposal really isn’t an absolute necessity.

I’m not sure how something so small ended up becoming a catalyst for me to open my mind to new things and different ideas more readily, but it did. For years, if someone said something to me that seemed odd or different or unthinkable, I would just remember that life without a garbage disposal used to seem odd and different and unthinkable. Then I lived without one for three years and realized it wasn’t that big of a deal. My husband used to think it odd and different and unreasonable to insist, like I had, that a garburator hold the same level of importance as a refrigerator. Now that he has lived in the US for twelve years, he finds it odd and different and unreasonable for someone to live without one.

The truth is most things are only odd or different or unreasonable when they are foreign. Once you get closer, you see a bigger picture that almost always changes your perspective. You realize you’ve been looking through a mirror like the one on your car that says “objects are closer than they appear.” Life in Canada seemed so familiar I just assumed I fully understood it, but the truth is I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought. We make judgments all the time based on a warped view of the world. Things, or people, or races, or religions, seem just familiar enough that we think we can judge the differences we seem to perceive. But when we stop to listen to each other and imagine what it would be like to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, we see that so much lies beneath the surface.

Back to our visit in Canada, as always, we went to McDonald’s for lunch one day. Before we went, we talked about how McDonald’s is different in other countries. I didn’t want the kids to overreact when they saw, for example, that in Canada, apple slices still have skin on them. But just when I was patting myself on the back for how enlightened and open-minded I am, five dreaded words betrayed me. They just spilled out before I could do anything about it. It was like I was in slow motion. I recognized what was about to happen but could do nothing to stop it. I meant to ask the cashier what came with a happy meal. Or what kind of kids’ meals they had. Or if the happy meals came with a burger, fries and a side like in the United States. But, no, instead, I said “Do you have normal happy meals?”

I was embarrassed before I finished the question. How could I have asked if the happy meals were “normal”!? I cannot identify any part of me that thinks in any way that anything is less “normal” in Canada than in the US, and yet, those words came out of my mouth! Of course, I had to make it worse by explaining that we were from the States. As if the sweet teenager taking our order hadn’t figured that out. What a great way for me to reinforce stereotypes that Canadians have of Americans! Of course I would think our way of doing things is “normal” and everyone else’s is “abnormal,” right?

After I got over my embarrassment, I laughed and lightened up and realized (again) that we are all just flawed human beings. The best thing we can do is listen to each other respectfully and then cut each other some slack. I sure hope that cashier does not honestly think I am so arrogant that I really consider only my experience to be “normal.” I hope she gave me the benefit of the doubt and realized I was just thinking about what is “normal” to me and didn’t mean the question the way it sounded.

As a society, we are so often and easily offended by innocent words that are not meant to injure but just represent a different perspective.

Words matter.
But more than words, intentions matter.
And more than anything, grace matters.

We have to extend each other grace to blunder and bludgeon through each day, because we also must rely on grace. We are all imperfect creatures in need of God’s perfect love and the grace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Because of this amazing grace, I am often humbled but never humiliated. Even as an American in Canada!

(As it turns out, in Trenton, Ontario, a “normal” happy meal comes with only one side. You get fries or apples, but not both. Also, the fountain drink cup is significantly smaller than the one you would get if you were to order a “normal” happy meal from a McDonald’s in Plano, Texas.)


Secret #4: Get Uncomfortable

GetUncomfortable“Transformation doesn’t happen until you get outside of your comfort zone!”

My attendance at the exercise class where the instructor yelled this was short-lived, but her words have stuck with me. They remind of one of my favorite Bible verses.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

Whether we are working out our bodies or trying to stay spiritually fit, the same truth applies. Transformation requires you to get uncomfortable.

Good managers are acutely aware of this. Right when you get really comfortable with something, they re-assign you to work on something else. They never let you settle in too much, because they know that’s not how you grow. In his book, From Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how the truly great companies set stretch goals by defining them as BHAGs, or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Good managers know that you have to set these types of stretch goals at every level to be successful.

To say that God calls you to go outside your comfort zone is an understatement. He calls you to do things that are so uncomfortable, you almost want to laugh. He called his disciple Peter to actually walk on water. Even though Peter had just seen Jesus walk on the water, it was still hard for Peter to understand how in the world he could do this! After all, Jesus is God, and Peter is, well, NOT God.

“‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said. ‘Why did you doubt?’”

Matthew 14:29-31

Jesus called Peter to walk on the water, not because He relished the opportunity to watch Peter squirm, but because He knew it would demonstrate God’s incredible power and the importance of faith. God calls us to walk through things that make us uncomfortable, not because he knows we can handle it, but because He knows we can’t. He knows we’ll be forced to rely on Him, and that’s the whole point. When you go outside your comfort zone and take a risk, you have to trust God. When God comes through for you, as He always does, not only is He glorified, but your faith is strengthened by the experience. You are “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Today, I challenge you to seek God by following the calls He puts on your heart that make you uncomfortable. Smile and say hi to someone who looks like she needs a friend, even though it feels awkward and intrusive. Forgive someone that you have every right to stay mad at. Talk to your husband about that issue you’ve been hoping will go away but just isn’t. Call that relative or friend you haven’t talked to in ages who keeps coming to mind. Make amends for your part in an argument even if the other person was more at fault. Join that choir you keep talking about wanting to be a part of.

Allow God to transform you by stepping out into the waves and trusting Him. He won’t let you down, I promise.

One of the most “uncomfortable” times in my life was at the very end of my pregnancy. I wasn’t in constant pain, just UNCOMFORTABLE. I heard someone say this is God’s way of preparing you for labor. You are so uncomfortable and ready for the baby to just GET OUT, you are pretty much willing to go through anything. I have a good friend right now was beyond uncomfortable at the end of her pregnancy. She couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t work. She couldn’t even get comfortable enough to just lay in her bed and watch TV.

Sometimes discomfort is God’s way of preparing us for something else. And just like a pregnant woman has to go from extraordinary discomfort to labor pains before she knows the joy of motherhood, when you stretch yourself outside your comfort zone for God, you don’t always transition immediately from awkwardness to Holy Spirit-filled serenity. Sometimes, there is pain in between. Don’t be discouraged if you take a risk and the result is not what you hoped for. Just keep pressing on, one step at a time, and trust God’s word that He will eventually lead you to a better place.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

1 Peter 5:10

This verse promises us not only that our suffering is temporary but that God will make us stronger through it if we let Him. In the next topic, we will go beyond just getting uncomfortable, and talk about changing our perception of pain. For today, whether you are feeling mild discomfort or going through something much more painful, take heart and let hope be enough.

All of us mommas know that my friend’s discomfort today will be worth it a few days from now. If her experience is like mine, once her sweet baby boy enters this world, today will be but a fleeting memory, replaced by a new kind of joy she can’t even begin to imagine. She has the hope of that joy. She has an idea of what it will look like. But, as a woman who hasn’t yet had a healthy child, she doesn’t really know. Similarly, we all go through new things that are uncomfortable and just plain icky, where all we have is hope. As you take steps to be who God calls you to be, lean into those uncomfortable moments and remember that sometimes discomfort precedes joy and transformation beyond your comprehension.

Originally published on The Sisterhood blog (