Archives for the month of: December, 2019

A lot has happened this year. Things that were good, things that were hard, and everything in between.

The renovations to make our home accessible for Dion came to completion. And then the troubleshooting began. The swing of a door made it impossible for Dion to close it, and so an automatic door opener became necessary. The door of the elevator failed to latch and therefore wouldn’t move (we have now figured it out). The schedule of Personal Support Workers sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. What also transpired was that Dion, Cate and I could have dinner around our table again. And this Christmas we were all in the same place. So many of you made this possible through your generous financial gifts, participation in the meal train, phone calls and visits, and prayer. We do not take it for granted.

Our staff team at The Dale went through a few changes: Pete Nojd and Olivia Dower joined the crew, and Meagan Knight had a beautiful baby and went on maternity leave (she will be returning in the fall of 2020). On more than a few occasions I found myself dumbfounded by the work God has done to build The Dale. I recall what it felt like to be by myself, then for five years it be me and Joanna, then The Dale three with the addition of Meagan, and in 2019 almost doubling to five with Pete and Olivia. Each person is precious; each person feels a sense of call; each person brings something unique.

Cate entered her last year of high school. We have read about universities and colleges. She has been preparing a portfolio and will be sending in applications before mid-January in order to study photography. I have enjoyed every season of Cate’s life, and this one is no different. I also find myself reflecting on Cate’s early years and feeling nostalgic. Little Catie-Cate is not so little anymore. She is a seventeen-year-old with an old soul, a compassionate heart, a keen sense of joy, and a wonderful eye.

We said welcome and hello to many new community members at The Dale. We also said goodbye to Wally, Keith, Sharky, Rudy, Mary and most recently, Julie who was murdered on December 22nd. Life and death, joy and grief. As Henri Nouwen so wisely said, “mourning and dancing are never fully separated. Their ‘times’ do not necessarily follow each other. In fact, their ‘times’ may become one ‘time.’ Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts.”

Mourning has turned into dancing and vice versa on numerous occasions this past year. I often feel in a liminal space, or “in-between place”, at such times. Liminal comes from the Latin ‘limen’ which means ‘on the threshold’. I have found myself on the threshold in many situations, where I can see what is behind while also sensing what is in front. Living into this tension has been an exercise in faith and has required strength and grace not my own.

Dion is home/MS is brutal. The Dale is growing/people are dying. Cate is graduating/Cate will leave the nest. I feel thankful that in all these in-between places there is space for grief and fatigue, alongside opportunities for joy, courage, and hope. At the end of 2019, my desire for the Christmas promise is heightened. Let this weary world rejoice.

Merry Christmas everyone. May there be light in the darkness, hope in the difficulty, and love to cover it all.

I have talked (with permission) about our relationship before and the way it began outside the Community Centre at the corner of Cowan and Queen back when The Dale was still known as PNC. He was immediately menacing and demanded I give him a pair of tokens. At the time, PNC was in financial crisis and I didn’t have tokens, nor did I have the money to buy any. I tried to explain why I could not help, but none of it mattered. To Michael* I was a person he expected to have been able to meet his immediate need. Through tears I tried to explain our situation. Through anger he tried to explain his. Our parting that day was not pretty. 

Michael slowly began to show up at our Drop-In programming. His big personality and even bigger voice would fill any room. He claimed to hate our food, routinely told us our coffee sucked, and almost always became threatening. Rather than leaving at our request, he would plant his feet firmly down and say, “I am not going ANYWHERE”. Michael was accustomed to being restricted from drop-in centres and seemed intent on testing us to see what we might do. 

One day he decided to scream that I was terrible at what I do. We ended up standing, nose to nose, in an alley-like driveway at the side of one of our Drop-In buildings. I rarely raise my voice, but on this day not only did I raise it, I matched his profanity with my own. It was not one of my prouder moments. I felt something in me snap and became determined, at least in my mind, to not let him get away with the way he was treating me and multiple other people that day. Amazingly, there is a grace that transcends, and that screaming match became our turning point. 

One day this year Michael came looking for me before our Sunday service. He was clearly agitated and feeling vulnerable. I learned that he was about to lose his storage unit, the place that held everything he owned. Many of our people who are homeless rely on such spaces to keep their precious things safe, though for many the cost becomes prohibitive. We decided that I would try to negotiate with the owners a little bit of extra time to come up with a plan. Amazingly it worked.

Coming up with a solution that would fit Michael’s needs was not easy. I got very anxious as the time to clear out the old unit drew close. Pete, Joanna and I all arrived to help on move day, really not knowing what to expect. Would Michael be there? Would we get everything out in time? Would this nurture our relationship? Or, would it take us a few steps back, proving to be too vulnerable and difficult?

He was there. And we managed to move everything out and into a new storage space. To most onlookers it would have looked like mundane work, to me it felt momentous. In fact, I felt like the Holy Spirit was present throughout the day. As we parted, Michael embraced each of us (a first), and told me he loved me. When Joanna and I sat in the van afterwards, I couldn’t help but weep.

Both Michael and I have needed to discover who the other was. For many valid reasons, Michael distrusted people. For many valid reasons, I felt threatened by Michael. Building a relationship and trust was going to take time. We have developed a way to talk with one another. He makes me laugh. I make him roll his eyes. Things do still go sideways, but with less regularity. If either of us had bolted though, we wouldn’t be where we are now. And where we are now? Well, it is something I am deeply thankful for.

*For privacy sake, not his real name.