Archives for posts with tag: Advent

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or not. Mostly not for a lot of people I love.

The sentimental songs, the snow, and all the stuff can serve as reminders of estranged family, or no family, or family that is very far away; of cold nights spent in stairwells or under a bridge or in a house that is not a home; of no money for rent or food or presents. For me, this month is magnifying the absence of my mom. I am also admittedly feeling a weariness about the excessive commercial nature of Christmas. Part of me wants to hibernate until January.

Today we had our Monday Drop-In. Interspersed throughout the day were interactions with people experiencing a variety of emotions. Some were grieving lost relationships and the death of loved ones. A number of people lit up when a new friend of The Dale showed up with their six-month old baby. Others expressed anger and frustration at life. A few joined in a rendition of Silent Night. By the end of the day my heart was heavy because though there were many sweet moments, there was much sadness.

Yesterday we gathered together for our Sunday service and lit the Advent candle that represents joy. What does it mean to not just experience a fleeting happiness, but a grounded joy in whatever our circumstances might be? A number of people, many of whom were at the drop-in today, and all no stranger to challenge, contributed to the discussion. We encouraged one another to not allow our struggles to define us or rob us of joy, to practice gratitude for even the smallest of things, to learn to rejoice, and to again and again, choose joy.

Right now, even as I sit here feeling burdened for my friends and missing my mom, I am trying to slow down and do what we talked about yesterday. I hunger for the peace that passes all understanding, something I know is real and gratefully regularly experience. It helps to remember that the impact of Christmas is to be felt everyday of the year, not just on the 25th, for light has pierced the darkness and brought with it hope and yes, joy.

“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy.” Psalm 126:5-6

Light in the Darkness

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I’m trying to warm up after a 5:15 morning walk with a dear friend. I’ve been checking e-mails and just received the good news about a grant proposal being accepted for PNC. Yes! And just last night a group of new friends announced they had taken up an offering for us- an offering that reflects loving generosity. Yes, again! As I sit by the fire in my living room I am struck by the gratitude I feel that, at the end of a crazy year, PNC is still here. We have weathered many storms and are not looking just tattered and torn, but hope-full. On more than a few occasions I have said (and will continue to say), “there is beauty arising from the ashes”.

At this time last year another dear friend shared an Advent reading that has proven to be a constant source of great encouragement. One part says this:

Think of the seed. We commit it to the darkness. And a new plant emerges thanks to what O’Donohue calls ‘the ancient symmetry of growth: root further into darkness and rise towards the sun.’

This is so powerfully embodied in the great poise of the trees. ‘A life that wishes to honour its own possibility has to learn too how to integrate the suffering of dark and bleak times into a dignity of presence. Letting go of old forms of life, a tree practices hospitality towards new forms. It balances perennial energies of winter and spring within its own living bark.

A dignity of presence. I love that. I love that PNC has been able to urge our roots deeper, spill into the streets, learn to rely on God for our daily bread and find a new way. I am learning SO much about trusting God in each moment. Without fail, when the bank account has dipped to a bad place, there is either just enough money in my pocket or someone else says, “I will take care of it”; when there is little food in the pantry we get a donation; when we need a space to run a program another organization says “here, use this space”. I have desired to be open and attuned to the possibility that God might say it is time to close the doors. All these happenings though say the exact opposite: stay open, I am with all of you.

The PNC community is rising up. With humble gratitude I say, thanks.

To all who mourn he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair…they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory (Isaiah)



Advent is upon us. Advent, for those unfamiliar with the term means “coming” and is used to describe the time between now and Christmas. It is the time in which we wait and prepare to remember the coming of Christ that happened so long ago and longingly anticipate His return. I began to really pay attention to Advent a number of years ago now and admit that with each passing year this season has become more and more challenging for me. Though deeply rooted in me is a desire to give gifts, I struggle with the consumerism of the season. I hate how busy the month of December becomes. Most of all though, a very large spotlight appears over the darkness of both my own heart and the state of the world. It feels as though I cannot wait for things to be made right.

I’m having to learn the art of waiting. Not the fidgety, exasperated kind of waiting, but the kind that is patient and still. I’m having to choose to buy less, slow down the pace and allow myself to be changed. Very slowly, the layers of guilt, shame, loneliness and ill-desire are being stripped away from my heart. My eyes become even more alerted to the terrible pain and suffering of this world: of men and women and children caught in the sex trade and of those who control them; of bombs being detonated over cities, villages and towns; of polluted water that cannot quench the thirst of those around it, of the awful disparity between those who are rich and those who are poor. As my eyes open, so does the desire to do what I can: pray, love well, build community, look for glimpses of hope, weep with those who are weeping and receive the care and love of others toward me.

Years ago I found myself completely overwhelmed the week before Christmas. My husband was having a terrible Multiple Sclerosis attack, my mother was trying to recover from brain surgery in hospital, my daughter was small and needing me and all of a sudden we HAD NO WATER. I turned on the tap one morning and nothing came out. Nothing came out for over a week. The worst part really was that nobody seemed to be able to help- the City of Toronto told us to call a plumber while the plumber told us to call the City. Finally somebody from the City told me candidly that we needed to have a pipe replaced from the sidewalk to the house, an issue requiring getting on a waiting list (a list we’d actually been on for years) and that until our name came up we were out of luck. I got off the phone, locked myself in the bathroom and lost it.

It wasn’t pretty. Through the flood of tears I finally said, “God, there is absolutely nothing I can do. You HAVE to do something”. I was wailing so hard that I almost missed the ring of the doorbell. Standing outside my door was a lanky worker from the city. He said, “I found your problem. Stuck my shovel in the snowbank by the sidewalk and water flooded out. I’ve got a crew on the way”. Friends, I felt like I met Jesus in the form of a water guy.

This Advent I am waiting for the water guy to show up. I want to cut through the various obligations of Christmas and be reminded that I need to remember He is, in fact, coming.