Tag Archives: gratitude

The beauty of spilling out

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When Erinn or I tell the story of The Dale, we often say that roughly three years ago we spilled out into the streets. The Dale (then PNC) could no longer afford to pay rent, and the decision was made to become a church without our own walls, rather then shut our (figurative) doors completely.

This way of being a roaming church has become a huge part of our identity, and sometimes I even forget that it’s not “normal”. Having no space of our own has it’s challenges, for SURE, but on days like today I am reminded anew of the beautiful blessing that it is to be a mobile church.

There is some work being done on the space that we usually inhabit on Wednesdays, and so we moved our art and breakfast drop-in into the park! It was the loveliest morning. We shared a simple meal of muffins, fruit and coffee. Some of us did some art, and some of us created music. We were able to connect with folks in the neighbourhood that we don’t usually see, and enjoyed being outside under the warm sun. The community was not at all thrown off by our change of location, since we have all become used to moving around, and being The Dale wherever two or more of us we end up!

At one point, a man came over and complimented the musicians on their rendition of “Sultans of Swing”, saying that he thought someone had been playing it on the radio. He was delighted to find the two of them playing it live. It turns out that this gentleman is a classical music radio show host! He was intrigued by our gathering, and took Erinn’s business card. While nothing more may come of this encounter, it was super encouraging, and another reminder of the neat things that can happen when we spill out into the neighbourhood and make ourselves open to new friendships.

I am grateful for days like today.

Gratitude

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I realized the other day that I haven’t done any blogging in a while, and I think it’s because things are still pretty difficult around The Dale, and within myself. Many good things have happened… and over all it’s been tough slogging. I don’t want to downplay or diminish the hard things, but I do want to take this blog post to name the things for which I am really grateful. And, in honour and anticipation of our upcoming Photo Exhibit (opening July 23rd at Gallery 1313 on Queen West… come!), I thought I’d use some pictures I’ve snapped over the last few weeks.

So, I am grateful for:

Our community garden plot, tended entirely by the community

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Sidewalk reminders

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Parkdale sunsets

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Backyard bonfires

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Friends who like to swing from vines

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Friends with farms and pies

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Colourful little critters found at farms

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More graffiti reminders

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Good poetry (thanks Wendell Berry!)

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Cherries picked blocks and hours from our drop in

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As Anne Lamott says, “Awful stuff happens and beautiful stuff happens, and it’s all part of the big picture. In the face of everything, we slowly come through… And at some point, we cast our eyes to the beautiful skies… and we whisper, ‘thank you.’ ”  (Help, Thanks, Wow, pg 51)

Hope in the heaviness

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If you read Erinn’s blog, you’ll know that this has been a heavy week, and it feels like it might get heavier.

Last Wednesday there were two memorials in a row for folks from the Sanctuary community (one of whom also came to The Dale), followed by the death of another Sanctuary member a few days later. I didn’t know any of these three men well, but I know people who did know them well, and am sad for everyone involved. Erinn and I were able to attend one of the two memorials, where we were reminded that there is nothing fair about the way life unfolds, but that if the Beatitudes are true, the most broken WILL be the most blessed in the end. This doesn’t seem to do a whole lot for us or our friends in the present, as we bear witness to the struggles, illnesses, overdoses, accidents, and premature deaths. But if we don’t have this hope, we don’t have much.

I’ve been trying to hold onto this hope, as two beloved Dale folks have been hospitalized in the last week and a half with life threatening situations. Rumours were flying around this morning that one of them had been taken off life support, which is untrue. But the knowledge that this is a real possibility in the coming days or weeks is scary and sad.

Last week I also had difficult encounters with a Sanctuary friend, then a Dale friend a few hours later, while running errands downtown. I left both encounters genuinely and sadly wondering if my presence had had a net positive, neutral or negative impact on my friends. I was reminded of the fact that sometimes there is very little I can do for my friends in the moment, and that my best efforts may backfire. I was reminded that I don’t have all the answers, and I never will.

And yet, I/we hold onto the hope of the Beatitudes, the resurrection, and the coming kingdom.

In the meantime we’ve been given little gifts, like a beautiful, full-sky rainbow during street outreach at the end of the double-memorial day. And wonderful words of encouragement from various folks in the community who remind us that the presence of this little group of strugglers is important and good. And the chance to celebrate my dad’s birthday, with a beautiful bike ride along the water. So in the midst of the heaviness, there are reasons for hope and gratitude.

Wowzers

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Tonight’s Bible study was really lovely.

We were small in number, but had a good, deep discussion and the chance to really share and pray together, which is sometimes hard in bigger groups.

One member took off a bit early to get to an AA meeting, and we cheered him on his way, congratulating him on 13 days of sobriety.

The rest of us spent some time praying. One member prayed “for the guy in the bus shelter, even though he’s crabby with me. I don’t really know why I’m praying for him… but I love him, and I’ll miss him when he’s gone.” Another prayed for “everyone who thinks that no one loves them.”

Wowzers. What a group.

Reasons to Rejoice

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Today was pretty sweet.

Erinn and I received our business cards, after a fair number of glitches and waiting on things over which we had little control. But today they were ready for pick up, and we were so excited! I somehow feel like I must be an adult (or getting there!) if I have a business card 🙂 And this feels like another sign that we, The Dale, are here to stay. Don’t be surprised if I force one on you the next time I see you!

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Erinn, very wisely, suggested that we take a moment, in the middle of our busy day, to celebrate our cards. We took a few out, admired them, took a selfie, and felt happy. Yay for little moments of rejoicing!

And today was full of those moments.

The sun was shining brightly, and everyone was in a better mood.

An artist from the community sold some paintings last week, and insisted on treating us to lunch, to say thank you.

Another friend and I went to the AGO (for the second time).

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I am grateful for the reminder to stop and celebrate, and for all these little (but in their own way, pretty big) reasons to rejoice.

A beloved one of the gang

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The other week I was at a Coffee House at Sanctuary, and Dan (the emcee and one of the original members of Sanctuary) was introducing Greg Paul (the founder and pastor of Sanctuary). He said something like, “and now introducing our beloved… well… our beloved… one of the gang!” My friend Anne, who is married to Dan, leaned over to me and said “If that’s how I’m referred to at my funeral, that would be pretty cool.” I feel exactly the same way. Whether it be at Sanctuary, The Dale, my family, a circle of friends, I just want to be a beloved one of the gang.

Last week Sanctuary lost a deeply beloved one of the gang. Greg “Iggy” Spoon passed away last Tuesday, totally surrounded by family and friends. It was one of the hugest and least deserved honours of my life to have been there in that room, as he left us to join his Creator. I still find it pretty hard to believe that he’s gone, even though I witnessed his departure.

Iggy was most definitely “one of the gang” at Sanctuary. He had been part of the community for a good 12-15 years before I showed up almost 5 years ago. He was an incredible artist, a kind and very loyal friend, an asker of the toughest questions; a hurting and beautiful soul. I hadn’t spent nearly as much time with him over the past couple of years as I did when I was at Wycliffe and interning at Sanctuary, but he still greeted me with warmth, asked how I was doing, and made me feel like a beloved one of the gang. What an incredible gift.

His absence is felt keenly by many, many people, and will continue to be felt. If you could, please join me in praying for good and healthy grieving to happen in the Sanctuary community, his family, and the other circles to which he belonged.

 

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[Greg Paul and Iggy. A beloved two of the gang.]

Being away, and back again

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I’ve been away over the past couple of weeks, on a vacation with a dear friend and her family, and then at a wedding of another dear friend. I am so grateful for these trips, and the incredible generosity that made them possible. I am also very happy to be home, back to life at The Dale, and at Sanctuary. These two weeks away gave me plenty of opportunity to rest and be rejuvenated, and also to talk about my beloved communities.

I found myself telling many new people about The Dale, especially at the wedding. I spent a week with 40ish people that I had never (or barely) met, so I had many conversations about who I am and what I do with my time! I was able to explain the philosophy of the Dale, and that fact that I gain just as much and more than I give to the community, as I receive the gifts of others. The consistent response that I got from people was, “Wow, you really seem to love what you do!” It’s true… I really do!

Coming home this week, I was reminded afresh of why I love this community, and the many ways that we work together to weave the fabric that is The Dale. Let me share a few:

– a community member phoned me up to tell me that he’d been offered a bunch of free food that would otherwise go to waste, and wanted to share it with us/the neighbourhood. He came to outreach with a duffel bag full of fresh, packaged sandwiches, which we were able to distribute.
– A bunch of guys in the community pitched in with shoveling, dish washing, and moving some belongings for another community member, all without being asked.
– Folks in the community are always looking out for one another, and this week a number of folks caught me up on some worries they had for others in the community. These weren’t bits of gossip, but honest concerns for mutual friends.

– I also went to dinner drop-in at Sanctuary, and was told by a friend that she’d been praying for me while I was away. She wanted to tell me about her week, which was full of struggles and victories, and also to hear about my trips, know the colour of my bridesmaid’s dress, and see pictures.

It was good to be away, and it’s SO good to be back.

Art doesn’t judge.

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Just over a month ago I was gifted with two tickets to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. I asked a friend from Sanctuary, who adores classical music, to join me. He did, and we had a wonderful time. He knows far more about classical than I do, and enjoyed it on a deeper level than I think I’ll ever be able to. It was a joy to be with him, seeing him soak in the piano concerto, as at home in Roy Thompson hall as he is on the street. He belonged there, and the music welcomed him in.

Today I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario with a friend from The Dale. Someone had gifted her with a family pass, and she was having a hard time finding someone who wanted to go along. Eventually she asked me, and of course I said yes! Again, this friend knows way more about art than I do. We spent a long time looking at the model ships, and she taught me a ton about them, having made some herself when she was younger. We cruised around the halls of this grand gallery and soaked in the beauty. Again, my friend was totally at home, and the art welcomed her in.

I love having these experiences with my friends. I love being welcomed in by the art, to enjoy its beauty, with no questions asked.This reminds me of the Source of all creativity, who created us with the longing to create, and to enjoy the creations of others. The Source who welcomes all of us in.

Experiences of redemption and gezelligheid

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November has been a very full month so far!

I am part of a team of that worked together over the last few months to plan a conference for young women in ministry, which we called “Junia’s Daughters” (Junia is mentioned in Romans 16:7, as being “outstanding among the apostles”. Her name was mistranslated “Junias”- a male name- for many years, as translators couldn’t fathom the idea of a female apostle). On November 8th, a group of about 80 women came together at Wycliffe College to worship, discuss, pray, eat, and listen to and share stories and experiences. It was a wonderful day, and I feel so blessed that I was able to be a part of it. We honoured the strength and courage of the women who have gone before us, gave thanks for the many ways that women are now allowed to participate in vocational ministry, and acknowledged the struggles and barriers that we still face.

Two days later, when I was opening up The Dale’s Monday drop-in, I looked around and had a wonderful realization. I was surrounded by eight men, of different ages and stages of life, each busily preparing for drop in; setting tables, chopping vegetables, starting up the stove. A little later we were joined by a number of women who are also essential to the running of our Monday meal. But in that moment, these men were naturally, happily, carrying out tasks that have traditionally been delegated to women. This was not intentional, and I doubt that anyone else even noticed. And to me this felt very redemptive; a glimpse of the kingdom where everyone uses the gifts they have been given, without regard for prescribed roles and gender norms.

The next week, The Dale held a “Fun Fair Fundraiser”, where we invited one and all to come and play games, have their faces painted, square dance, bid on pies, eat chili, fudge and caramel apples, enjoy a concert by The Lovelocks (a Toronto-based country/folk band), and learn more about The Dale. Our incredible Board of Directors did much of organizing for this event, and a beautiful team of volunteers from Parkdale and beyond helped it all come together. We were blown away by the number of people who showed up, celebrated with us, connected with life at The Dale, and donated. I think the best word to describe the event is “gezelligheid”, an untranslatable Dutch word that encompasses the words “cozy, fun, quiant, nice atmosphere” and also “belonging, time spent with loved ones, the fact of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness that gives a warm feeling”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gezelligheid). Basically, it was pretty awesome 🙂

I can’t describe how grateful I am for these experiences. Thank you to everyone who helped make these events happen, to everyone who makes up these remarkable communities, and to the good Lord for bringing us all together. Here’s to many more moments of redemption and gezelligheid!

We’re on each other’s team

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A good friend and I often remind each other that “we’re on each other’s team”. By this we mean that we’ve got each other’s backs, we’re cheering for each other, and we believe in each other.

I’ve been noticing lots of examples of this around the Dale recently too:

A woman in distress came up to me and asked when the food bank would be open next. I didn’t know, off hand, but asked another community member who did. We’re on each other’s team.

A community member has a big dream to get his art out into the wider world. Erinn and I were taking him downtown to follow a potential lead, and another member from the community offered to come along for moral support. He also kept us laughing the entire time. We’re on each other’s team.

This same friend, who came along for the ride, has the daunting task of looking for a new housing situation. Another community member recently went with him to check out some possible apartments. We’re on each other’s team.

While we were on night time outreach last week, a dear friend who lacks any sort of stable housing told us “If you have any trouble, you come right back here and find me.” We’re on each other’s team.

A person who struggles with anger management, and has torn a strip off me way more than once, saw me parking my bike in Parkdale one evening. He asked me “Don’t you ever stop? You’re always on the go! You need to take a break! Go home and put your feet up!” Despite the fact that he sometimes seems determined not to be, in that moment he was on my team, and I think he knows that I’m on his too.

A friend recently came up with an entrepreneurial scheme to get himself out of poverty. He told us about it excitedly, and then yelled “Red rover, red rover, calling Jesus over!” I love that. As joking as he was being, I think he knows that there’s One who he really needs on his team.

I’m so grateful to be part of this wildly diverse, eclectic, beautiful and blessed team.