This past Monday, during our staff check-in before drop-in, we as a team acknowledged that we were feeling tired. There are a number of folks at The Dale whose lives are particularly tumultuous at the moment, a trend that we often see during the hot summer months. Between intense mental health struggles, housing (or lack there of) troubles, traumatic events and interpersonal conflicts, there are a lot of tough things going on in the lives of our friends.
With this in mind, we prayed for God’s peace and joy to rest upon us and our community, especially during that day’s drop-in. We prayed for glimpses of the Kingdom shining through. And this prayer was answered in so many lovely little ways:
- A white haired woman, “Sarah”, was at drop-in for the first time ever. She saw people leaving the building with food, and thought she would come and see what was going on. She kept saying things like, “this is marvelous! I had no idea this place existed!” It was so encouraging to see our drop-in through new eyes — to be reminded that it’s a good and lovely thing that we eat a big healthy lunch together every week, seated around tables with friends, both new and old. That finding a safe, welcoming space is a delightful thing.
- Two women in the community, who have a complicated history including a fair amount of conflict, were both on our annual trip to camp two year ago. Things came to a head, and some serious de-escalation was required. On Monday, one of them came up to us and said that she wanted to pay for the other one to come up to camp this year (we request that people contribute what they can towards the cost of the trip)…!
- A friend, who has a quick temper and as been known to blow up at us with little warning, asked to borrow my phone. This is a common request, and I sometimes (ie. often) lose track of who has my phone at any given moment. I also absent-mindedly leave it lying around, and people are always finding it and returning it to me. So when I couldn’t locate my phone right away, I wasn’t surprised. This friend followed me around as I searched, and I was expecting him to lose his cool at any moment. Instead, he said “what colour is it? Oh, green? Like this one?” I turned around to see him smiling impishly and holding out my phone (which he’d had all along). He told me to keep a closer eye on it, then went peacefully on his way after we shared a chuckle.
While Monday’s drop-in was still pretty intense, I was so grateful when I looked back on the day and remembered these moments of peace and joy.
Today marks 15 years since my cousins, Thomas (11) and Meredith (8), died in a car accident. They and their parents were on their way to my family’s home for an early Christmas dinner.
Every December 11th since then I marvel that another year has gone by, and often wonder what they would be up to if they were still living. They were great kids- spunky, smart and kind- and I know they would have grown up to be bright, compassionate and hilarious adults. I grieve the fact that our time together was short; that I, my sister and the rest of our cousins don’t get to have them as friends.
My aunt and uncle are living testimonies to the grace of God in the face of tragedy. Their story is full of answered prayers, the hand of God being extended through his people, peace that surpasses understanding, and of course a lot of struggle and pain. As a family, we experienced God’s presence in very beautiful ways in the hours, days, weeks, months and years following the deaths of Thomas and Meredith.
I want to acknowledge this anniversary, as well as the grief and grace that accompany it. The death of two kids is a terrible thing, no matter what. Much grace, mercy, and good followed their deaths. These things are both true.
Advent helps me to make a bit of sense of this- we acknowledge that all is not right in the world. We ache for healing and hope. We also celebrate with joy that Jesus did come, and will come again. Grief and grace live side by side, and will do so until he comes back. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Erinn wrote a great post this morning about a question that we sometimes hear… “What difference does The Dale make?” I really couldn’t have answered that question any better, so here is her response:
One of the lines reads: “The journey is not a straight-line: it is marked with fumbles and missteps and requires patience and grace.” As Erinn would agree, this applies to all of us.
I have felt the weight of my own fumbles and missteps quite keenly this week. I have lost patience, offended people without meaning to, missed important verbal and non-verbal ques from those around me… I have come face to face with my brokenness; my humanness.
And I have received beautiful gifts from God, through this community. In a moment when I was feeling particularly out of sorts, someone I had just met shared some words of encouragement that nearly knocked me over with their grace-infused potency. A good friend gave us a thoughtful gift- a plaque with a poem called “Don’t Quit”, encouraging us to keep on keeping on.
I’ve also seen a number of those “almost imperceptible” changes that Erinn mentions. A friend who often comes across as very angry with the world started a conversation by thanking me for a bit of help we were able to offer last week… and then didn’t say a single angry thing in the whole conversation. Another friend who is marginalized in a number of ways explained to us that he hopes his music will contribute to peace, and that he intends to keep working on getting it out, into the world.
So, as we stumble along the road leading to ultimate restoration in the Kingdom, we remind each other to keep on keeping on by the grace, and through the strength, of God.