Occasional Sinkage

I typically write the blogs when I am doing well – I don’t write on bad days.

But I want to let you know – there are bad days.

There have been quite a few of them lately – days when I am just waiting to go to bed.

There have been days recently where it has been a colossal effort just to feed myself – and when I manage to get off the couch, and eat something or do some dishes or ANYTHING that gets me started – I can manage to be productive the rest of the day despite occasional bouts of crying or whining.  (Mike has been amazingly supportive and patient the last few weeks.)

There have been a couple days when I haven’t managed to start.


But tomorrow, its a whole new day.

We have great and incredibly supportive people even here, friends who walk with us daily and help make sure we don’t sink too far.  Mike & I do our best to keep a sense of humour, even if it does tend to be a little dark these days.  (For example, last week we shared a good laugh about the feeling that we were drowning.  I guess you had to be there.)

I mostly want to share the parts that are inspiring or encouraging – but its not an honest picture.

Some days, I just sink.




More Plans

I’m hoping that by now most of you have gotten some insight into our heart and intentions for the future, even if you (like us) might be a little foggy on the details.

Let me share with you some of what we are planning, and some of our ideas for our future directions.

Long-term, we will be working with discipleship in a way that is in line with our overarching vision statement.  We also plan to remain with YWAM in a full-time capacity.

For the next few months, we will be travelling, specifically with the intent of connecting with people who were directly affected by Beatrix’s death.  Many of our friends were witnesses to the accident, and returned quickly to pressures of full-time ministry.  We are hoping that our visits will provide comfort and inspiration to our friends and colleagues.  We are also expecting to be comforted and inspired ourselves.  In June, we will attend a gathering with the leaders of YWAM Canada.

We haven’t made any firm decisions about what we will do long-term in regards to being in Rwanda.  Being here has helped, but we still don’t feel ready to either close the door to coming back, or to commit to continue serving here.  We are working towards putting things into a holding pattern here.  We are planning to return at about the same time next year (before our visas expire), and will make a decision by then about what we will do.

For the last 6 months of 2017, we are planning to stay in one place and serve with an existing (probably YWAM) ministry.  There are a couple of places that we think would be a good fit – where we could slip in and be useful (yes, I am looking at you, YWAM Vancouver).  However, we are very aware that the next few months might show us a better opportunity, and so we are travelling with eyes and ears open for opportunities to serve.


Music for the soul

I made you a playlist.

I’ve spent so much time just sitting playing a silly game (yes, it’s Candy Crush), and listening to music.  The music has been working its way around my soul.  It has helped me to grieve and has encouraged me – there are many mornings where I can be found with the phone in my hand and tears in my eyes.  (But not always sadness, often that some lyric has spoken right to the place in my heart that needed encouragement that day.)

Some of the songs I’ve talked about on here before.  Some of them are songs that speak about faith, some are not.  I tried to pick lyric videos where possible – but I’ve just been listening to the songs.  (Youtube just seemed like the best way to share this with you, the videos aren’t necessarily relevant.)  I think some of the songs are fairly obvious (like, say “Hope is the Anthem of my Soul”), but I wanted to make a few notes…

  • I’m listening again to much of the same music I was listening to shortly after Beatrix’s death… I think it is the renewal of grief as we return to our home – thus the songs by Jars of Clay and Jon Foreman/Switchfoot.
  • The song, “So Will I,” has been an anthem for me for the last few months.  It has been a reminder, an encouragement, and a declaration.
  • “All Time Low” makes me laugh – it is a little bit crass and has some language in it – but I identify so much with the line, “I’ve been trying to fix my pride but that sh*t’s broken.”  Its a funny way of putting it, but it is very true.
  • And, “The House of God, Forever.”  I’m sure most of you will recognize some of the lyrics. The line, “even though I walk through the valley of death and dying… you are with me, you’re always with me,” makes me tear up every time, because it has been my road the last few months.

So have a listen.  For those of you wondering how we are – this is a good representation.  I also know some of you are going through your own heartsickness and griefs – I hope this can speak to you as it has spoken to me.


Why I love YWAM

For some reason, I hear a lot of criticism of YWAM (Youth With A Mission).  I’m not sure why it is, but for some reason, people often seem to want to tell me what they think is wrong with the organization I work with.  And every time I have to fight this primitive defensiveness that rises up in me.  It feels something like, “Shutup!  You can’t say that about my family.”

Don’t get me wrong – I recognize our flaws as well as anyone.  In addition to simple familiarity, our association with YWAM has been mostly based on a couple things: we love the foundational values of YWAM, and we love the people we get to work with.

Working with YWAM means we have to raise all our own support.  (This means that the only funds we get for salary and ministry are what we can raise personally.)  I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with this part of the job.

The hard part about this is that I often feel like I have to convince people that who we are and what we do is valuable.  It can make it difficult to be entirely honest about our struggles.  (Would you want to support missionaries who are struggling with a round of culture shock [even though this is a normal thing that happens regularly to most people living in other cultures]?)  Fundraising is a lot of work – getting the right pictures, organizing, writing updates and newsletters, and speaking about what we are doing at churches and events.  (And trying to figure out with just the right amount of humility and pushiness, who might be interested in any of those things.)  It is also hard to raise funds when your main role is administrative…  it’s not exactly the kind of work that brings in the big bucks.  (Although many parts of ministry are dependent on good administration to function smoothly.)

Fundraising is not why I signed up for missions – but I do know that without doing that, I don’t get to do anything else.

Now let me tell you why I love it…

I like the idea that we get to be a bridge between different cultures.  Living in North America, it is easy to forget about what happens in the rest of the world, and it is amazing to be able to share what we see and experience.  Hearing about what we do can bring out the best of peoples’ generous hearts, and it is humbling and awesome to be a part of that.

And the best part – visiting!  Communicating about what we do is actually most effective on a personal, face-to-face basis.  Many of the people who support us are people we know and love – so we get to go visit our friends, talk about our lives, and call it work.  HA!  I love it.


In the months since Beatrix’s death, my appreciation of this form of financial support has only grown.  We have had the freedom to proceed “back to work” as our hearts are ready.  We have a wide and deep support network: we have had financial and emotional support from people in Canada, Rwanda, and around the world.  This support has been and continues to be crucial to our recovery.  I am so very thankful that it is spread out, so that people can do what they want/what they are able to do without feeling pressured.  I’m thankful that the burden of our neediness has been spread out over many strong shoulders.  And I am thankful that the pain of our grief is somehow eased because we know other people are feeling it with us.


I deserve a badge

It’s been 6 months since my life came to a sudden and abrupt halt.

Every day hurts.

A few months ago, a friend told me she thought I deserved a badge-2.jpgbadge (like the ones we used to get in Brownies for learning or doing something specific) for every day that I got out of bed.  I was reminded of that when I read this blog post about trophies the other day – it made me laugh.



Every day that we are here, I am reminded of the people here that I nathanlowlove.  I am reminded of why I enjoy living here, and I am reminded of how much work there is yet to do here (that we could be doing).  There are a lot of things that I missed in the last 6 months (in particular, 2 close friends became mamas, and I missed walking with through these hard and precious early months, but so many more things).  Its hard to think that I will miss so much more in the year(s?) to come.




And every day, I struggle to just get through.  I’m not convinced that time heals all wounds, but it does help.  I can look back at some flashes from the last 6 months, and I can see tangible ways that I am moving towards healing.  There are a lot of moments that I am just telling myself, “This is a day I never have to do again.  And each day that I get through (without resorting to destructive/hurtful coping methods), is one day closer to something better.”

I was repeating that to myself the other day as we worked on the paperwork for our house.  I had overextended myself for several days before that, and was trying to convince myself to not quit, to just get it done.  I am so thankful for the practical help and emotional support of our friends that came with us.  From an objective perspective, I have to say that it went quite well – fairly smooth and simple.  We managed to get everyone necessary in the right place at the same time, and now all that remains is to wait for the official paper to get back to us.  This was one of the major practical items we needed to do while in Rwanda.  I am cautiously optimistic that we have done what we needed and that it will work out well.

I don’t have an actual trophy or badge to give myself (and if I did, I would just have to figure out if it is worth packing or not), but I am patting myself on the back for the big and small things I have accomplished this week.


An update from the present

We’re here.  It’s been a hard week, and we have only just begun the many meetings and grievings, the sorting and the packing.  We are starting to be over jet lag – to be sleeping at night and hungry at the right times.  We have met with some of our closest friends who are here in our home village, and will see the ones in Kigali next week.

It has been an incredible blessing to have our friend with us through this first time.  I can’t say enough how thankful I am she has come.

I’m mostly sticking close to home, but Mike has been out more, greeting people in the community.  I had a kinyarwanda lesson once where I learned all of the various phrases you use to say to someone who has been in pain, and so have been able to understand most of what people have been saying to us.  (It’s odd, in North America we don’t know what to say, but here tragedy is common, so there are standard, stock phrases for it.  I want to dismiss them as cliché and empty – but there is also something comforting about it.)

And we are sorting.  What do we bring back to Canada? Give away? Try to sell??  And Beatrix’s stuff…  So many of the books represent great memories, but what would I do with them?  (Plus, there is a preschool that could put them to good use.)  I haven’t looked at the toys yet.    I think what is most poignant for me, is that each  of her belongings was given/made/chosen with deliberation and love (either by me or by our friends/family).  I have had so many moments as I’ve sorted, thinking of the people who gave Beatrix gifts.


sorting… the notes on the shelves say things like, “use for now, keep, give, dunno.”



I’m too tired and scattered yet to have a point, other than: this is hard, and we are OK.


What kind of story are you telling?

A few things converged to make me start thinking about this.

One of them was a wrestle going on in my head: I’m 35, practically homeless, degree-less, and basically lacking all the things our culture requires you have to be successful/valuable.

Another was a song – there is a line in it that says, “my story’s crazy but it’s true.”  I got really excited and thought “Yeah, that’s me!”  But then had a bit of a reality check when I realized: it sounds cool to say it that way, but in the midst of the “crazy” part, it’s usually very difficult.

And the other was a scene in the Harry Potter novels.  In case you are unfamiliar with it, I’ll sketch it out for you (and then urge you to go read it).  Harry is, obviously, the hero of the story.  He has many conflicts with the “bad guys” where he emerges victorious.  His friends will say, “You did this, and you did that, (you’re so cool).”  Harry is always protesting, particularly to his friend Ron (who tends towards jealousy), that it isn’t like that, that it is mostly luck, coincidence, and just barely scraping by.  But then Ron has a dramatic confrontation with the darkness, in which he is the victor.  As Harry is telling someone else about how amazing Ron was, Ron expresses that he really wasn’t that cool.  And exasperated Harry says, “Yes exactly!  That is what I have been telling you for years.”

I have been so inspired and encouraged by some of my favourite stories, by music I’ve listened to, and by the movies/TV we have watched.  They shape the way I think, and the way I view my own life.  They help me to be able to frame the story differently.  So instead of being “homeless,”  we actually have many, many homes.  (Because I built my house upon a stone.)

I don’t know what kind of story your life is, but mine is an epic.  In the best epic stories, some of the meaning or significance of events is only revealed much later on, viewed backwards.  In my favourite epic stories, there was usually a point where I nearly quit reading them because things got so heartbreaking and hopeless, I could see no way the world could be right again.

Friends, this is the chapter we have been in lately.


I could mention so many people, stories and lyrics that inspire me to keep going, that this awful, painful, desolate moment is not the final word.  (Because I need this reminder so often.) From one song I have listened to over and over: “Hold on to your hope, watch your triumph unfold.”

The way that heroes get through the darkest chapters is to just keep going, to keep moving forward towards the “goal,” even when that seems hopeless. We keep reminding ourselves.  And we keep trying to choose the best steps on an unclear path.



On Sunday we get on a plane, to return to Rwanda.  We will be there for about 2 months.  We are looking forward to seeing people we love, but we are also apprehensive and dreading how hard this will be.  This is the next part in our epic tale, and we are “holding on to something” as we keep going.