Toast

The last few months we have been labouring towards a goal: the beginning of healing for YWAM Canada after Beatrix’s traumatic death.  It has marked us as an organization and many of us as individuals.

The culmination of this trip was last week in Calgary, where leaders from across the country gathered together to work on what the future directions of YWAM Canada will be – starting with the topic of “healthy grief.”  Mike and I shared our story.

We have been extending all of our mental and emotional resources towards this, and knew that we would be exhausted at the end.  We planned to have a good rest in July, to be able to recover.

We also had planned to arrive in Calgary a day early to have some time and space to prepare well for this emotional work.

But…

Just before we left Saskatchewan for Calgary we got a call that Mike’s Uncle Pat was in the hospital in Regina, and all the family was coming.

I don’t know how to talk about these people in a way that will help you see, but this is a family that has showed up for us again, and again, and again.

One of these cousins took our wedding pictures when our photographer cancelled last minute.

One of them hosted a bachelor party for one of Mike’s friends, because Mike realized at the last minute that none of the local groomsman had planned anything and Mike didn’t  know of a good local venue.

Aunt Betty Ann hosted a fundraiser for us in her business, even though she wan’t sure if it was a good business move.  (Come to think of it, I hope that’s not why M.O.M.’s is closed now? 🙂 )

And Uncle Pat was always really close to Mike’s dad.

 

So we went to Regina instead, and spent the day and a good chunk of the night at the hospital.   Patrick Tallon died around midnight.

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We slept for a few hours, drove to Calgary, and hurriedly tried to finish our preparations.  We spent a lot of our driving time trying to figure out exactly what we wanted to say, and how we would say it.  (And carefully backing off every time we started to get tense, recognizing that this is hard and we were exhausted.)

 

It went really, really well, beyond even my hopes.  I tried to cram in every bit of awesomeness that was possible in the days we had there – and might share more at another time, but for now I’ll just say that we accomplished a lot, talked a lot, and slept only a little.

We left early to get back to Saskatchewan in time for Mike to lead prayers for Uncle Pat’s funeral.

Given our lives, we are so glad we have been able to be in Saskatchewan this week.

And we are so sad.  (This is an understatement.)

And we were already at the end of our physical and emotional capacity, so we are toast.

But we are headed towards a rest.

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Music on the Road

I have so many things I want to tell you about.  I have so many thoughts and experiences from the last couple of months that I want to share with you.

But not yet.  Our time has been so rich; has been so amazing and good.  And so exhausting.

We’re taking a rest soon, and I’ll get a chance to develop all the bits rattling around in my brain.  For now, I thought I could just give you a sense of where we are at, from the music that’s been feeding my soul along the way.

As with last time, some of the songs are more about the lyrics, and some are more about the emotion of the song.  Enjoy.

My Therapy Kayak

I always wanted to like canoeing, but for whatever reason the skills elude me.  This has led to multiple canoeing experiences memorable only because they did not go well AT ALL.  But the first time I was in a kayak I knew I had found a sport I loved.

I have had it in my head for a while that at whatever time we move back to Canada, I would like to take up kayaking.  When we found ourselves here last fall, it seemed like a good idea.

I had to find a kayak that I would actually be able to use, so I bought an expensive one that folds up into our trunk – and then began learning how to use it.

One of the things that happened after Beatrix’s death was that my back, shoulders, and neck hurt so much.  This has happened to me under stress for as long as I can remember, but since August I have had muscle pain on an unmanageable level.  Massage helped – but I found that after about a week, I was all tied up again.  It took me a while to realize that after I started kayaking, those muscles didn’t hurt anymore.  (Well, that’s not entirely true, but instead it was the satisfying ache of well-used muscles.)

Another thing I found was it was actually so much better than going in to see a professional counselor.  (For me, in this context.  I think in many circumstances it can be a really helpful thing, so I don’t want to seem like I am making any sweeping statements.)  But I often came back after kayaking having come to peace with some issue.  It has given me space, time, and beauty, to help work out my healing.  (Actually, most of my blogs have been inspired while kayaking.)

Having a physical challenge (e.g. I’m going to paddle to that island and back), has satisfied a need I have.  Especially in this season of producing nothing, and often feeling like I am making little progress, achieving tangible goals has been a balm.

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Harrison Lake, BC

I can’t say enough about the beauty…  It’s impossible for me to describe in words the healing power of being immersed in natural beauty.

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Harrison River –  photo credit to my brother, Ed Wig

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Deep Cove, Vancouver

I also feel ridiculously privileged for all of the rich experiences I’ve had this year.

I kayaked on the east and west coasts of Canada.

I kayaked on the Harrison river in October – and so in addition to experiencing the salmon run, I saw several otters and dozens of bald eagles.

I kayaked through an eerie morning fog in a salt water marsh in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife reserve in Maine.

I kayaked out to an island in the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  (This one didn’t go at all as intended.  Instead of a beautiful, peaceful paddle, it turned into a memorable tidal experience.)

I’m planning to get out on Lake Superior next week.

These things all sound incredible when I talk about them this way.  I’m grateful.  However, (as with most things), I have found that just getting out regularly on a nearby lake has been the most important thing.  I’ve been trying to break it down so that I can explain it, but I find myself at a loss to describe these mysterious encounters with Creator and Creation.  It is good.

Hard Days

Mother’s Day just passed.  We were with friends, and it was also their anniversary – we celebrated both important things together.  (And since Mother’s Day has never been a huge deal to me, it wasn’t this time, either.)  (I mean, Mike & I cooked supper with the kids, including a shopping trip.  Our strategy was divide and conquer: Mike looked around with the 2 girls, while I kept the baby in the stroller and actually got the food.  The baby fell asleep in the stroller as we were walking around the store, and so everyone was making such sweet faces at the two of us, and wishing me Happy Mother’s Day.  It felt a little like I should have been feeling sad, but I was just enjoying the whole experience.)

Today marks 9 months since Beatrix died.  It is also the 40th birthday of a dear friend…  and her nephew Jonathan was born today, 2 years ago.  Jonathan’s parents, Amiss & Marieth, got to spend just a few days with him before he died.

So I’m crying this morning.  Mourning our lost babies.

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There are more hard days coming – Beatrix’s birthday in July, and then the day marking one year since her death a few weeks later.  (I’m not sure what to call it – “anniversary” should be celebratory).

For me, the emotional work is usually done ahead of time, as I pray and ponder the implications of each day passing, remember what has gone before, and try to decide what to do.  As of now, I don’t know what we will do for those days; how we will spend them.  But I know this: they will come, and they will pass.  And I know this: if we face them with as much courage as we can muster, we will receive comfort, and the days that follow will be easier because we’re not deflecting the pain.

The last time I did this…

We did it – 26 hours of travelling all in one stretch.

I really like to drive all night, once in a while, when the situation warrants it.  You get to visit, listen to music, listen to teaching, and put a lot of miles behind you.

The other night I heard this bit that I wanted to share with you – move it forward to around 26:30, then listen for about a minute until he finishes the story. (click here)

For those of you who know me, especially from my younger years, you will laugh and think, “of course she likes that.”  (Ahem, mom.) But I think it reflects something that we desperately need in our discourse right now.

 

Anyway, we had a very long way to go.  This is by far the longest stretch on our journey with no one to visit on the way.  Our original plan of where to stay didn’t work out, and I resented paying for a hotel room when we would just have a very short sleep (or to take the trip over 3 days and pay for 2 hotels), and I wasn’t particularly concerned with seeing all the landscape.  It worked really well because a couple areas could have been really difficult to navigate since I’m not really used to city driving.  Our route took us right through downtown Chicago – but at 1 am instead of at 9 am, so it was fairly simple.

The other reason, is that this is one of the “last times.”

The last time we drove all night was a few days before Beatrix died.

We were camping with my family, just for a couple days, and we wanted to get every moment out of that that we could.  And then we were headed to an event, a lot of miles away, that we didn’t want to miss any of.  Plus, travelling with a toddler for hours and hours on end isn’t really fun for anyone – and we wanted to have a bit of good family time, just us, in between things with large groups of people she didn’t know well in strange locations.  SO:  We laid her down in the tent, then watched some of the meteor shower with my cousins and my parents.  At about midnight, we transferred her to the carseat and drove as far as we could while she slept.

Once she woke up, we stopped at almost every town.  I think it took us something like 13 hours to put 6 hours of driving behind us.  But we played at parks, we picnicked, we spent time playing with her, and generally took it easy.  (I mean, Mike and I were up all night, we needed to go easy too.)  By the end, Beatrix was really tired of travelling, too.  When she didn’t want to listen to any of the kids music she usually liked, we just put on music we liked and sang loud along with it.  (I remember her bewildered smile.  She wanted to be grumpy but couldn’t resist participating when her parents were having fun.)

It was a Really Good Day.

There are a lot of things, that the “last time” I did this was with Beatrix.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never eat corn without thinking of her – but I like corn, and don’t want to give up eating it because it holds memories.  So I ate corn when it was put in front of me shortly after her death.  And I decided to enjoy the taste, even though just the sight of it made me want to weep.  (And so what if it does?  Nearly everything makes me cry.)  If there is too long of a space, between the time of memory and the time of doing it again, then it becomes too hard, too difficult to face, too difficult to change when the “last time” I did this was.

So now, I still have that sweet memory of driving through the night, and seeing the meteor shower, and then having a really happy day as a family.

But the last time I drove through the night was across the US on the way to see good friends.

My face hurts.

As a general rule, I don’t mind crying- I think it’s good for the soul – but crying with a head cold is the worst.

We arrived back in Canada last week, and have been working to organize ourselves and get over jet lag.  Tomorrow morning we are leaving for our cross Canada tour.  Over the last 10 months, our stuff has become incredibly disorganized, with bits of this here, bits of that there, and we are trying to do a little bit of consolidation and organization.

This morning I packed away the things we decided to keep – a few toys and books for memories sake, some cloth diapers and  baby carriers in case we decide to attempt parenting again.  Sorting through all the stuff at various times in various places and deciding what to keep has been much easier than I expected, but putting the things away in a plastic tub this morning undid me.

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Over the next two months, we are going to spend time with some of the most amazing people in the world.  Our main focus is going to be spending time with people who were present when Beatrix died, with the hope of giving and receiving comfort and encouragement.  We will be starting in the east, at Truro, NS, and driving back, staying at different YWAM locations along the way (although certainly not all of them).

I’ve had lots of different pictures and metaphors along our journey.  A week or two ago I was struck by a line in a song that always makes me weep (its called “You’re Gonna Be OK”).   The line is “just follow the light in the darkness.”  I think it accurately reflects where we are at, at the moment.  We don’t know many specifics about where our lives are going, or what we might do.  We are surrounded by darkness.  Each day we struggle to keep hoping, and keep feeling our way along to that light in the distance.

This trip is the next few steps on our way to that light, to a new place of hope and of vision.  We’ll try to keep you updated from the road.

Mutara Update

One of the things that I have been doing for the last few years in Rwanda is helping people communicate.  I have worked a lot with Amiss on newsletters and different updates.  (His spoken English is really good, but when he tries to write… it is very difficult to decipher.)  (Sorry Amiss.)

He is a great storyteller and communicator – so usually he dictates and I type – I make small grammar changes or ask him to clarify if I think things are hard to understand.  So the rest of this post is one of the recent updates we wrote together.  I thought it would also give you a good idea of how the project is continuing (but nearly in someone else’s words).

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We are thankful for what God is doing among the support group [for people with HIV/AIDS].  They are growing in their relationship with God, and they are building their families on God’s foundation.

We have several members whose spouses did not want to attend the group, because they were afraid for people to know that they are affected by HIV.  However, because of what our members have been learning, they have wanted their spouses to come.  We are very thankful that four people have convinced their spouses to join us, so we have 4 couples attending together.  The more people come out to the support group, the more we can reduce the spread of HIV by teaching them not to sleep with multiple partners.  Also, the more we interact with people, the more we know how we can assist them.

There is one lady who has come to the support amiss update1group; her name is Ainna.  She came to the group as a Muslim.  A few months ago, she received Christ into her life.  It impacted me deeply to see the big change in her life.

About 1 year ago, we gave 6 families female goats to help them begin to earn income.  Once each female has 2 babies, they give one back to the support group (which we pass on to someone else), and then they can sell one, as well as future offspring.  They can use the profits to start another business or to buy health insurance.   Another benefit of the goats is that they can use the manure as fertilizer.  Currently, three families have goats they are preparing to give back to the support group, and so the next round will begin.  (Ainna’s family was one family who received a goat.)

amiss-update2.jpgIn January, we started a preschool in Ryabega.  Forty percent of the children are children of support group members.  We are glad that they are going to this school – it is a good school.  They are receiving quality education and care in an environment that focuses on child development and supporting the whole family.  One of the children loves his teacher so much; he tried to put some of his breakfast in his pocket, to take as a gift to share with Teacher Robert.  (He is the boy in the orange shirt.)

As we have been trying to get the proper papers to establish the preschool, it has lead to visits by leaders from various levels.   They were excited to see what we are doing, and are happy to collaborate with us.  We have struggled to make the right connections with leaders who can make the recommendations we need, so that our ministries can have official approval.  The visit to the preschool is a big breakthrough for us.

During the long school holiday from Amissupdate3November to January, we had many students who returned from school to our football team.  It was a good time of discipleship, and some of the students gave their lives to Christ and joined churches.  Some of students also stopped drinking and/or smoking.  As more people from this generation come clean, it brings hope for our nation.

Five of our sponsor kids had national exams this year.  Three passed and will move on to the next grade level at a good school.  The ones that didn’t pass will take their next grade level at a lower quality school.

On a personal note, Nathan is doing physio.  We have good insurance for him, which helps us cover his medical treatments for now.  Friends and family have been standing with us to make sure we can care for Nathan well.  The YWAM leaders in Kigali have helped us by providing daily transportation to and from the hospital for our family.  The doctor we are working with is professional, helpful, and good at answering questions and providing additional information.  We are seeing improvement in Nathan’s condition, and are so encouraged by that.

Finally, we are thankful to welcome our friends Mike and Amanda back to Rwanda.  They have spent time with us in Kigali, and it has been good for us to stay together and share our lives again.