Just an Ordinary Day

We had a friend stay with us for a few days.  She has had a really difficult year, and has been trying to figure out how to put her life together in a way she can live with.  Her husband was going to be gone for a few days, and it’s not great for her to stay alone.  Besides the fact that I love her and am always delighted to spend time with her, it was wonderful to be able to be a bit of a support for someone else.

At the end of one of the days, she asked me, “Is your life always this intense?”

It gave me pause, because it had been a fairly ordinary day for me.

I had done a few  practical things at the coffee house that needed to be taken care of.  I had had a few short-but-deep conversations at that time with people whose lives we have been connected with.

I had met with another friend, a young woman who recently came back from a Discipleship Training School.  It was a transformative experience for her.  It was particularly important because her family situation (and therefore some of her roles and identity) has changed in the last few years.  She has had some incredible life experiences, and made some major life decisions, and although the internet has enabled us to keep connected as she processes these things, this was our first in-person conversation in a long time.  This is someone I have watched grow up – have listened to, prayed for, and advised (whether for good or bad, that’s another issue) – so intense would be a good descriptor of that conversation.

Then, later that evening, we had a skype meeting with a friend overseas.  Last we had talked with him, he had been facing some difficult things that happened when he was a child.  He had been wanting to talk to his parents about it – but nervous about how that conversation might go.  He shared with us about how that conversation went, and how it opened up a whole list of things his family had never discussed.  (Painful conversations, but hopeful and possibly leading to healing.)  We felt honoured to listen, encourage, and pray for our friend.

Sprinkled throughout the day was a variety of conversations with the friend herself about various aspects of our lives, none of which were shallow.

(Those are just the parts I remember.)

No big deal, just an ordinary day.

I sometimes beat myself up a bit at how long it is taking us to recover and get back to our work.  But every once in a while I have a reminder that we have the awesome privilege of being engaged with people’s hearts.  If we’re not OK on a deep heart-level, we won’t be able to do that work; we won’t be trustworthy with places of hope and brokenness.  I have an awareness of how awesome our work is.  I have an awareness of how easy it can be to hurt people when they open up to us in vulnerability – and I think it is worth it to take the time so that we can be people who are safe, people who are trustworthy, people of encouragement, and people who bring life.

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I Intend to Win

Someone made a comment about the last blog – they had been wanting to print it out for an update for the church community, but it seemed to end in the middle.

They didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it seemed to me that if that was the feeling the reader was left with, I have accurately communicated some of where we are at right now.

The last few weeks have probably been the hardest of the entire last year.

 

We have no normal that we can continue with.  We don’t have a home that we can live in while we wait this out.  Our vocation requires that we be present with our hearts; that we be engaged and whole.  Getting paid for our work requires that we not only DO the work, but that we also communicate passionately and effectively about what we are doing.

I expected there to be setbacks.  I expected there to be hard days and weeks, but I expected that overall, we would be able to find a way.  I hoped that, eventually, the added strain of this continued nomadic life would come to an end.  And now, a year and a half after Beatrix’s death, I feel a bit like I have been clotheslined – knocked over just as we were back on our feet and gaining some momentum.

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Now, I won’t leave you there this time…  At the moment, we’re not sure what our options will be month to  month.  I know my eye is getting better; I have another treatment in Lethbridge the first week of February, and probably more sometime after that.  (As long as it continues to improve, they won’t do surgery, although that hasn’t been ruled out yet.)  We have some ideas about what we might do (and where we might live) for March, but at this point it’s just ideas.  March is suddenly too far away to plan for.

We’re very thankful that a YWAM base we used to work with suggested they could use us this month.  And a good friend is going to come stay for a couple weeks – so we have somewhere to live, people to support us, and something useful to do for this month, and that’s about as far ahead as we know for sure right now.

Challenges

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Have you ever seen Demotivators?  They help me to smile a bit when things just get too ridiculous.

I’m trying to see our current situation like the picture above, but this Demotivator seems more appropriate at the moment:

I woke up a couple weeks ago, and my vision was a little blurry.  What with travel and holidays, it took a little bit to get in to see our doctor – he sent me on to the optometrist, who send me on to the ophthalmologist.  It turns out, I had a bleed (stroke!)  in my eye.

Apparently it is quite an anomaly, and they are testing for all sorts of possible underlying causes.  In the meantime,  he is optimistic that I will be able to recover full vision.  But… I have to return to the ophthalmologist once a month to get a needle in my eye until it is resolved (something like 2-6 months).

You may already be able to see the blip in this.  When I told the doctor that we were planning to leave the country at the end of the month, he said, “Absolutely not.”  He then proceeded to explain that he didn’t think it wise for us to leave the country for quite a while.

I’m totally floored.  I felt really good – a couple months closing up in Rwanda, and then moving on to our next project with YWAM Nanaimo (which is what this next blog was supposed to be about, but I’ll have to postpone that to another time).  It felt like we were able to close this season and begin a new one.

I am very thankful for the way everything has been streamlined – various professionals communicating effectively with each other and explaining well along the way.  AND!!  I don’t feel like I have to use Google to figure out what is really going on, because I am being cared for by a doctor who knows more than I do.  (Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for all the help the internet has given me over the years, but…  I feel much more confident being in the hands of a competent professional.)  I am thankful to have a doctor who is trying to find out the underlying cause instead of just treating symptoms.  I am also thankful that this didn’t happen several months ago in the US, or while we were in Rwanda.

I have had a few days to pick myself up, remind myself of all the things in the previous paragraph, but I’m still having a trouble figuring out how to do some of the things we need to do.  It feels like, just as we were ready to move towards stability, we have been derailed.

Immediate steps

Now that we have some long term vision, it’s time to start moving in that direction.  After a long drive back from Pennsylvania, it has been good to celebrate Christmas with family.  January will be spent communicating and preparing, and at the end of the month, we’ll get on a plane.

First, we’ll be heading to Rwanda.  We’ll be there for 6 weeks.  We’re really looking forward to seeing our people there again – it has been far too long.  We have a few goals to accomplish while there, but the overarching one is to close out our time there well.  When we were there last year, we were pretty sure that we were finished living and working there full time, but didn’t want to make any rash decisions.  We did our best to put things into a holding pattern.  As we have continued to talk over the year, we have decided that, while we may return, it is time to move on from that season.

“On our way” back to Canada, we’re going to make a stop in the Philippines.  In YWAMese, we would call it a “pastoral visit.”  So I have been trying to figure out how to define that in a way that makes it make sense for us to go all the way to the Philippines for 2 weeks, for a visit.  We have some wonderful friends who have been working there for, I think, 7 or 8 years.  It is difficult to describe the slow, cumulative toll that is exacted by cross-cultural living, by repeatedly witnessing trauma, and by the constant weight of responsibility.  It sneaks up on us.  It is hard to pinpoint because it manifests as depression, an inability to stop and take a rest, irritability, severe criticism of a culture (either home culture or host culture), physical illness, or a hundred other things that don’t really seem related.  It is also difficult to describe because it is often perceived as complaint – when most of us joyfully undertake these difficulties…  it is just that they are difficult.

The good news is that one of the best aids in the difficulty is not being alone.  Having people enter in, listen, encourage, and occasionally bring a broader perspective has been our biggest support over our years in Rwanda.  As we have been discussing with our beloved friend, we realized we have the time to go – so at the end of March, we’ll make a side trip on our way back to Canada.

Announcements, Announcements, Annou-ouncements

One of the things I have had to learn over the years is how to communicate information effectively to groups of people in various distracting circumstances (in a market, in an airport, during a meal).  Information people need (we’ll be eating supper at 6, we have to be ready to go to the airport by 4 am…), but that isn’t necessarily interesting.  Standing on a chair and yelling, “Everyone SHUT-UP!” is somewhat effective in stopping conversations, but it tends to create a hostile audience.  So my favourite way is to start the announcement song – about how boring announcements are – and usually by the end people have joined in and are prepared.

So – pretend I’m singing (or don’t, it’s painful to listen to), and that you are joining in… and…  I’ll do my best to make it interesting.

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While in Pennsylvania, we were hoping to answer some questions:  Now, what do we do with the rest of our lives?  Where do we want to be in the next 5/10/20 years?  What steps can we take now to start to move it in that direction?

Our vision hasn’t changed.  We are still passionate about and feel called to work in a missions context, with a strong focus on discipleship.  But the ways in which we see ourselves pursuing it have changed.

Returning to North America after 5 years in Rwanda, we have seen our home culture with new eyes.  We have been evaluating the ways our normal modes of living contribute to injustice across the world, ecological destruction, and increasing experiences of anxiety and depression.

We can’t believe that this is a good way to live; we believe we follow a God who has some better ideas than this.  So: long-term, we want to experiment with some ways of living that are more just and ecologically sound.

We appreciate many things about the Discipleship Training School.  It is a model we are familiar with, and want to incorporate into what we are doing as a way of teaching what we have learned about God’s Kingdom, (in)justice, mental & emotional health, and missions.

Lest you think this is all ideas with no substance, we DO have some concrete ideas about how/where we will do this.  We are also planning our next steps with our current capabilities and long-term goals in mind.  You can look for more concrete “announcements” of this in our next few posts.

A Tiny (House) Update

Hello!  I meant to write this blog post two months ago, with a heads up that I would probably be quieter for a while, but what with one thing and another, it’s November now.  One of the main problems was our camera.  At the end of August, I went for a walk in the rain.  I thought I had taken everything that couldn’t get wet out of the rain, but about 24 hours later, I found our camera inside the bag in a soaking wet case.  I put in in rice, and then when we got to Pennsylvania, I put the rice and camera in a cupboard and left it.  I’m doing much better than I was at dealing with stressful things, but I didn’t want to face up to the fact that I had probably wrecked our camera.  As long as it was in the rice, I could hold on to some hope.  Schrödinger’s camera.

Last week I finally felt like I could face up to it, and, surprise!  It still works!  So here are a few long-promised pictures from inside the tiny house we have been living for almost 3 months now:

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It has been a great space for us!  It has been so good to be able to live alongside the family we are helping, but also have some space to ourselves.  It has also been really good for us to be able to be in the same place for a while.  (I’m actually not sure how to say these things strongly enough.)

Why I Want to be Whole

It is true for all of us, every day of our lives, but this last year I have been faced each day, each moment, with a very clear choice:  grow or die.

The option to just take the despairing route almost always feels easier (and certainly justified) in the moment, just as reaching towards healing usually feels impossible.  It’s like facing the choice of climbing stairs or going down a slide.  The slide is easier and feels better at the moment.  Every moment on the slide makes it harder to stop or go back up.  And the stairs are work.  But… the stairs are the only way to the place I actually want to go.

 

 

One of the things I have had to do, in order to heal, is close myself off from so much other pain – the pain of my friends, the pain of people I meet, and the pain of different injustices in the world.  I don’t have the emotional resources to empathize.

I was considering this more carefully as I was thinking briefly about the border situation in the US: parents trying to move towards a better life, and having their children taken away from them.  I had to stop myself, before I even got to the question, “What is really going on here?”  Because I can’t take it right now, the extra pain of considering that will undo me.

But I do NOT want to be a person who refuses to empathize, who will not look at the world around her for fear of seeing the pain.  I don’t want to be someone who denies reality because I prefer to believe a comfortable fiction.

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I love the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (literally, “repair of the world”, alternatively, “construction for eternity” according to Wikipedia).  That work is something I want to be a part of.  Somewhere in my soul is a deep conviction that I am here to make change in the world; to make this world a better place.  I know this.  (I believe this about you, too, by the way.)  Over the course of this last year I have received so many encouragements and affirmations in this area.  Some have been intentional, and some have just been offhand comments, but I have grabbed them and held on to them with all of my might, so that I am feeding the hope that climbing these stairs will be worth it.  I have a small glimpse of how broken the world is – and a small glimpse of how glorious it could be.  I want to work with individuals to help them become more whole in every area of their lives.  I want to face systems of injustice and come up with new, creative ways of living.  Each encounter with brokenness makes me all the more determined to be whole – to chase and pursue healing with all that I have – so that I can do the most I possibly can to share that healing with the world.

 

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