Archives for the month of: June, 2013

Sabbath: a period of rest.

Without Sabbath I do not know how I would function. I say this out of experience, for there have been plenty of times when I have failed to rest and as a result am a mess. Remind me of this when I forget to rest in the future.

The concept of Sabbath is rooted in the creation story: God worked to bring the world and all its inhabitants into being and when done, rested. He made this day of rest holy. I love that what was made holy was time. When I am actively choosing to not DO, it is good.

This of course is counter to much of our culture. We prioritize being busy and getting lots of stuff done, oftentimes allowing ourselves to be defined by our work. While doing our work well is so important, it is not meant to be all-encompassing. I am not simply Erinn Oxford, Director- my life is more nuanced than that.

The way my work looks demands that I carve out Sabbath on a weekday rather than a weekend. For me it is Friday. The biggest challenge I have is not making Friday my “catch-up day”. I could easily fill it with housework and all those things I failed to do during the week. I have to very intentionally choose to put those things aside and trust they will get done later. And here’s the thing: they do get done. By really resting, I am truly rejuvenated and able to return to work well.

I recently went to a place called the Cedars at L’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill. The Cedars is a house that one can use for quiet spiritual retreat. Whenever I’m there, I am struck by the peace that the place exudes. I always wonder why it feels so challenging to recreate that same sense elsewhere. I’m coming to understand that what is unique about the Cedars is you go there expecting to rest.

I guess that’s the heart of Sabbath- that God gives us permission to approach a day EXPECTING to rest. What an amazingly wise, loving gift, one that helps me understand who I truly am and redirects my attention to the One who matters most.

Thank goodness for Fridays.

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Some days just don’t look the way you expect them to.

Take today. Instead of going to the Monday Drop-In I’m at home. This, after Cate sort of lost (read: threw-up) the bowl of oatmeal she’d just had for breakfast. I knew immediately that she couldn’t go to school. I also knew that I really needed to go to work. I found myself smack in the middle of the incredible challenge it is to be a working mother.

This challenge is complex. My own journey has been a gradual one. I stayed home with Cate until she was in school, at which time I started working very part-time. Over the years I have watched Cate’s own readiness for independence grow and have generally kept my work life in step with that. I do not take for granted that this cannot be everyone’s experience. I also understand that it is not what everyone would choose. For me it fit.

Now I work at PNC full-time and days like today happen. I have a husband who works too and so together we have to figure it out. One amazing thing is that the culture being cultivated at PNC is one where the work is shared. I absolutely know that while I will be missed, the drop-in will happen. It will be a lot of work, yes. I am grateful to the many who are taking on my part of the load. From what I can tell, we all believe it is work that is so worth it and deeply good, which is exactly the way I also view the work I stayed home to do- the work of mothering.

I know that when Cate heard me say, “you are staying home with me” there was a huge sense of relief on her little face. I also know that when I’m back at PNC, everyone will be asking about how she is. Knowing all of this makes the challenge much easier. It reminds me that struggling with balancing things is important, to take it all one step at a time and that bowls of oatmeal can teach very fine lessons.

I have been reflecting a lot on how PNC has weathered what has been an incredibly challenging year and a bit.  It has been so hard AND so deeply good. We are still here because countless organizations and individuals (you know who you are, though I intend to say this to you each directly) have come alongside and reminded us that we are not alone.  We have been offered space to run our programs, food to create the meals, money to make sure the bills we do have get paid, prayer support and the gift of people’s presence. We have come a long way together.

God has seen fit to create a new work in Parkdale, one with a deeply rooted history and now taking on new forms. I have witnessed God’s peace going deeper than the pain. I have seen with my own eyes the multiplying of “loaves and fishes” when it seemed certain there would not be enough. We have a testimony to tell.

I’m not sure that these words can truly convey my gratitude. I am thankful from every part of my being. That is not an overstatement, it’s simply the truth.

The journey is not over. In many ways it has just begun. Keep with us.

There will be more stories to share.

For a couple of years my family and I have been sharing dinner with a group of people every Wednesday night. We all affectionately refer to it as the Great Dinner Shuffle, or GDS. Each week you are either a host or a guest. If you are hosting, you prepare the meal. If you are a guest, you simply show up and eat. Key to this is that the host not feel like a “show” is necessary. If what you are up for making is grilled cheese or warming up canned soup, fantastic. If your bathroom is messy, that’s okay. One of the fundamental hopes of GDS is to create an enlarged sense of family, one that feels comfortable.

A paraphrased story that I love to tell is how walking away from our house one night, a little guy asked his dad, “is Cate our cousin”?

No, she’s not”.

“But she is someone special to us”.

Aha! This little guy gets it. By being intentional about spending time with one another our kids have more cousins and yes, more parents; our adults feel less alone. Community is being formed.

One of my GDS friends just told me that her toddler daughter was pretending to talk on the phone with someone. When asked who she was talking to she said, “Erinn of course”. I have to admit that my heart grew another size. My hope and prayer is that when this wee one is old enough to call me for real, she will feel safe to; that I will get to watch her grow and change and learn; that I can be engaged in her life. That is what I hope Cate will experience with her additional parents too.

It’s amazing that this is growing out of something as seemingly simple as sharing meals together. Breaking bread is a beautiful thing.