Tuesday, April 18, 2017

13 Things I Learned from Hannah Baker

Earlier this month, Netflix dropped a new series that became an instant hit. Because of its controversial depiction of teen culture, rape and suicide, 13 Reasons Why quickly became the most tweeted Netflix show ever. It the story of high school student Hannah Baker's suicide, as told by her through a series of cassette tapes she left behind. While it has been wildly popular with its target audience, teens and young adults, 13 Reasons Why is drawing criticism from various mental health organizations around the world who feel that this series is glamourizing suicide and normalizing voyeurism through a series of graphic rape scenes.

I didn't know any of this when I sat down to watch the series. And in the end, it wasn't those things that stuck with me. Not in the way the criticism frames them.

I work with a youth mental health and suicide prevention organization. At our team meeting last week, one of our team members suggested that we watch the series because of its themes and popularity. Someone had recommended the book to me a little over a year ago so I was familiar with the basic storyline though I had yet to read it. I purposed to begin to watch it over the weekend but once I tuned in I couldn't turn away.

It was painful to watch. It was heart breaking and frustrating. It was unbelievable but still so real. It was terrible and beautiful and dark and hopeful all at once. But above all, it was necessary. It was necessary that I, a mother, an aunt, a friend, an advocate, watch this portrayal of a hidden world that walks through my every day life. It was necessary that I learn from Hannah Baker and her friends. It was necessary that I watch and feel and learn. It was necessary so that I can do better, can listen better, can know better in my very real relationships with the very real teens that I love.

Here are the 13 Things I Learned from Hannah Baker.

1. My kids' high school experience is vastly different than my high school experience. My kids may walk the same halls my husband and I did but their reality couldn't be more different. Twenty years seems like a blink in time but the whole world has changed. The issues and the access that frame my kids' world have nothing in common with my experience at the same age. Today's culture has shortened our childhood and brought previous 'adult' issues into high schools and middle schools. I don't understand what my kids face daily. I really don't. There's no way I could.

2. My kids are a mystery to me. I am an engaged parent. I know I am. I talk to my kids every day. I ask them about their peers, their classes and their feelings. I check their cell phones and their social media pages. I keep tabs on them. But I don't know them … not the them that walks through the high school, not the them who is alone with their thoughts and feelings, not the them who wrestles with their identity in reflection of their peers. In 13 Reasons Why several of the kids had 'good' parents who thought they were raising 'good' kids - because they are. I am raising good kids but I recognize that my assumption about who they are is keeping me from really knowing who they are.

3. Making a big deal over a small deal will cause us to miss the point entirely. In one scene, a boy is kind of flipping out because of the weight of responsibility he feels over Hannah's death. He is swearing and yelling in the school library. He is literally crying for help but the adults in the room miss it. They are more focused on the language he is using and the volume he is at than the words he is saying. They miss the forest because of the tree … and often, so do I. I

4. Our kids don't have as many people as we think. Understanding that I am an outsider to our kids' most intimate selves has lead me to see that my kids don't have as many people as I thought they did. I've tried to be intentional about connecting my kids to caring adults, to people they can trust and talk to. I've tried to encourage them to know and be known by safe people in their world and while I can see that there are dozens of people in their lives who love them and would be there for them their perspective is probably different. And if my kids did disclose abuse, bullying or assault to one of these adults, would they know what to do? Would they know what to say? Would I?

5. My kid is one of those kids. Newsflash - my kids aren't perfect. They say and do the wrong thing. They go along with the crowd when I wish they wouldn't. They say the mean thing instead of the kind thing. They cause damage where healing is needed. They mouth off, screw up and create drama. They do. They all do.

6. My lame rules matter. Clay is one of the main characters. He's a nice kid with nice parents. His mom has rules which seem kind of lame and so do I. These rules kept Clay accountable and connected to his parents, as do mine. My kids are used to my rules but when other teens and parents hear them they think I'm nuts but sitting at the table for at least one meal a day together, no phones or other devices in bedrooms and texting/calling curfews keep our kids connected with us. I have all of their pass codes and do spot check on their texts and social media. I see them every single day, not just look at them but see them. That matters

7. My daughter lives in a different reality than my sons. My sons live in a world of physical safety. My sons are taken at their word. My sons are never accused of creating drama or being attention seekers. My sons are not referred to as bitches by their peers. My sons are patted on the back for any attention they receive from girls. My sons are looked at as strong, independent and in charge of themselves. My sons are praised for leaderships skills and self confidence. My sons are not pawed at, grabbed or demeaned as they walk from class to class. My sons are not told their shoulders, knees or backs are distractions to fellow students ability to learn. This is not my daughter's reality.

8. My sons need to do better. In light of number 7, my sons need to rise up. They need to understand that the girls in their world face struggles and biases that they know nothing about. My sons need to be advocates and empowerers (I recognize that I just made up a word, just stick with me!). My sons need to know that they can be who they are. They can be good and kind and sensitive. They can stand up for the underdog, they can call out their peers for shaming girls, they can stop a conversation with just one word. My sons need to know that they have to use their privilege to protect others. They need to recognize their strength. My sons need to be given the vocabulary and the permission to stand and be a man of integrity.

9. An avalanche occurs because of an accumulation of flakes. An avalanche doesn't occur because of one major lump of snow falling to the earth. An avalanche occurs when one flake after another falls, piles up, settles down and suddenly shifts. And so does suicide. Rarely does one major life event trigger a suicide. Usually its a slow build of seemingly minor and unrelated events that pile up and become more than one can bear in the moment. Usually there are a million reasons why and those reasons shift and change and build up over time.

10. Not every person who attempts suicide is mentally ill. There is a stigma that there must be something wrong with a person who attempts suicide. But often times theres nothing wrong. There's no history. There's no diagnosis. There are no obvious signs. Often times, its a slow build up of quiet despair that sets in on a regular person. A regular person who has carried too much for too long.

11. Talking about suicide won't make our kids attempt it. There is this weird belief that if we talk about self harm and suicide it will somehow inspire kids to suddenly attempt these things. As if without the conversation these thoughts would never occur to them. That's simply not true. The more we can talk about things like suicide, self harm, rape, abuse, bullying and assault the less shame there will be attached to them. Shame is the enemy of our freedom. Shame is what keeps our kids isolated and alone.

12. Talking doesn't mean talking … it means listening. If we are going to talk to our kids we have to be willing to listen. As a parent, too often we enter a conversation with an agenda. We have a point to make. But if we are going to demystify our kids, if we are going to begin to understand their world then we need to listen. We need to hear what isn't being said. We need to be okay with not having any answers. We also have to get over ourselves and leave our shock and dismay at the door. We just need to show up and shut up.

13. We're not in this alone. There are a ton of resources out there for adults and teens. We can learn how to talk, how to listen and where to go for more help. There are people in our communities who want to see our kids thrive and they will help. We don't have to reinvent the wheel here, we just need to ask for help. Be brave enough to ask for help. The 13 reasons why info site has links to resources as does The Kids Help Phone.

There is so much more I could say here. So much I want to say about the culture our kids live in, about how we raise our daughters to be fearless and unapologetic, how we raise our sons to value people as more than just sexual objects. There's more to be said about how we treat each other, about how we speak to each other, about how we see each other. There's more - so much more - to be said about mental health, suicide and the stigmas we attach to both. There is more to be said about our expectations of survivors and bystanders, on how people 'should' respond in unimaginable situations, on how we instantaneously judge based on our bias. There is so much more to be said … so much more to be heard.

Let's start a conversation. Let's talk about the difficult, terrible things in life. Let's talk about rising up and showing up. Let's talk about caring for each other, about doing better for each other. Let's talk about how precious we are, how necessary we each are.

If you are a parent, a teacher or an adult who has a teen in your world please watch this series. Its graphic and difficult and heart breaking … and its necessary. Watch this series and talk to the kids in your world. Have those difficult conversations. And listen. Listen deep. It would also help if you watched this piece, too. Its called Beyond the Reasons and its full of great information that puts this series in context.

In case you're wondering, my kids have not seen this series. At this point I don't think I will show them the whole thing. Knowing my kids and how they process information, now is not the right time. I am, however, going to sit with them to watch episode 3. This is an important piece to Hannah's full story. It highlights how one small act can tip the scales, can create an avalanche, if you will. It also highlights the difference between how boys and girls experience the delicate social balance that is high school. This is where our conversation needs to start.

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”
― Jay AsherThirteen Reasons Why

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Last week, there was a bit of a hoopla in Canadian media .. well, more than a hoopla … it was a nation-wide, collective gasp and head shake followed by a firestorm of tweets and social media posts. I usually hesitate to weigh in on a subject when the point is so obvious but this time I've got to say something!

The dust-up in question came after a Canadian senator, Lynn Beyak, made a speech during a committee meeting on the over representation of indigenous women in the Canadian prison system. Beyak's speech avoided the committee topic entirely and instead focused on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report on residential schools. Her argument was that the report focused too much on the negative aspects of the schools and did not give enough credit to the good that also occurred during the schools' more than 100 year history. She expressed concern that all of the media coverage on the negative aspects of the schools is hurtful and damaging to the families and descendants of the teachers and caregivers of the schools.

Inhale, Nic. Exhale slowly. Just breathe.

When I first read the news reports I went through the stages of grief in rapid succession and looped back around to settle on anger. No that's not what she said, the media must be misquoting her. WTF she actually said THOSE WORDS! God please, please somehow make this not true. Really, I'd do anything to not have this white, privileged female representative of the canadian government say or even think these things! What a setback for reconciliation. How could she use her platform, abuse her platform, like this .. its heart breaking. Okay, if Senator Sinclair can respond with dignity and respect then so can I. So can I …. nope I can't FREAKING believe she said those things OUT LOUD during a recorded committee meeting! I seriously, can't even!!!

So, all those words happened in my brain in a matter of seconds and for the past week I have been stewing and mourning over this. I have no clarity on this situation and there is no excuse. I was shocked  by this senator's words and perspective. So absolutely shocked that in this day and age, in this time of knowing in our country that someone in a position of national leadership could think and say such things.

 I was deeply shocked until I looked to my indigenous friends to see their response. They were not shocked. They were angry, outraged and disappointed but not shocked. I realized quickly that they are past the point of being shocked when it comes to hearing from white people on indigenous issues. in fact, I believe they, as a community, are entirely unshockable. Here's why …

They have heard and seen it all. They still hear and see it all. Regularly. They know about lies and betrayal at the hands of the government. They have had land taken and taken and taken again. They have had their resources and industry removed, destroyed and contaminated over and over again. They have been called every filthy, degrading name you can imagine. They have been stereo-typed and victimized for generations. They have had their children stolen, their culture decimated and their families dismantled. And they have been blamed for all of it. This is why my indigenous sisters and brothers are not shocked when a white women speaks against them and elevates white woes above their own systematic oppression. This is why they are unshockable.

Don't mistake the lack of shock for the absence of heartbreak.

Generations feel the after effects of the abuse and violence that our People have suffered. We still see the despair that accompanies the cycle of addiction and abuse that began decades before we were born. We still hear the socially acceptable racist statements against our families whispered around dinner tables and shouted from political platforms. We still feel the heart ache and shame from mothers and fathers who were powerless to protect their children. We still bear the scars of the children who were abused, neglected and murdered in the name of God and country.

This is why we feel heartache and not shock. But we also feel hope because we see what you refuse to see. We see our people rising.

Women from across North America
 stand side by side after a Blanket Ceremony.
We see survivors returning to their people, returning to their culture. We see elders reaching back into their memories to teach the young ones language and art and survival and worship. We see the young learning … learning the Indian way and the white way. We see them merging the two with the focus of advocating and elevating and educating. We see the women rise up and say no more to violence and degradation. We see the men rise up as allies and assets. We see families reconcile and rebuild. We see a future that is stronger than our past. We see more than who we were, who we were told to be.

We see ourselves as we should be, as who were were created to be. Whole. Strong. Brave. Free.

I started this post with the intention of giving that senator a piece of my mind but as I wrote I realized this isn't about her. It can't be. She doesn't matter, not really. Her views are a symptom of something that outrage alone won't fix. Only time and hope and honesty and doing can change views like that. My focus cannot, and should not, be on changing small minds. My focus has to be on elevating great hearts, on amplifying courage and celebrating those who continue to rise.

I am a storyteller. That's where my heart is. That is what I'm good at. So that's what I'll do.

If you have a story, have heard a story or know a person with a story of rising, of reconciliation, of small acts of love and justice please comment or email me. I'd love to use this platform to celebrate those who are doing the everyday, good work of healing and rising above. Thos are the stories that we should share because they bring hope and courage to hearts that are looking for their rise-up moment, too.

"I really don't care if you feel responsible for the past. The real question is do you feel a sense of responsibility for the future because that's what this is all about."
~Senator Murray Sinclair

Thursday, March 9, 2017

From the Start

I’ve often struggled with the idea of being a woman.  I know I am a woman but I’ve never much liked the company of women or girls for that matter.  As a child, I found girls to be silly, mean and emotionally unstable and as a woman I’ve experienced far too many displays of the same childish behavior among my peers. I’ve had a hard time recognizing goodness in my own gender to the point of not really seeking out female friends. Acquaintances were fine but don’t let any of them get too close. Casual encounters were safe but in order to keep the crazy drama at bay I felt I needed to limit my female contact.

I felt justified in my assessment of The Weaker Sex. From the beginning of time women have caused a lot of trouble, unnecessary drama and blatant meanness. Seriously, women were the source of most of the trouble in the Bible. Just look at Eve and Sarah and Leah, three very manipulative women. And don’t even get me started on Delilah and Jezebel! Yep, women are bad news. It’s best to just keep my head down and be as dude-like as possible, or so I thought until I tripped into an arena that I never planned on entering.

A while back, and completely out of the blue, I got involved in Women’s Ministry at my church. One day I was alone in our church basement, setting up for Sunday School and listening to a teaching podcast when a friend showed up and asked me what I was doing. The next thing I knew I was leading a weekly women’s meeting where we watched podcasts and discussed them. It was the last thing I intended to do but it was among the best things to ever happen to me.

Almost immediately, I began to see and value women differently. Getting to know the ladies who came out every week opened my eyes to a truth I should have recognized long ago. We are a work in progress, we are all doing our best to do our best. Through relationship with these magnificent women, I began to see the treasure that women are. I recognized that strength, loyalty, protection and nurturing are intrinsically part of the female nature and the things I previously disliked about women were never supposed to be part of our nature in the first place. God had designed us for community, care and cooperation, not for manipulation, contention and strife.

In preparation for the meetings each week I listen to dozens of podcasts from some of the best lady preachers of our age. The teaching and mentorship I have received from these Godly women through this medium has completely reshaped my perspective on my life, my faith and my place in this world.  There have been many messages that have encouraged me and challenged me but none has impacted me more than the teaching that opened my heart to a truth I had never before realized; God created women on purpose.

The deliverer of this message was Lisa Bevere and I had never heard anyone like her. She said things like, “Women are not the problem, they are the answer” and “being a confident woman is not acting like a man.” As I jumped head first into her teachings I began to see women in a completely different light, a God light. I read the Bible with a different understanding, from the perspective that women were part of God’s plan from the beginning, and familiar verses came alive to me in a new way, verses like Genesis 1:26.

… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female, He created them

In the very same sentence that God had the idea for man, He had the idea for woman. Before He breathed life into one, He had all eternity planned for the other. Woman was not an afterthought, created just to fill a void in man; she was half of the original thought. She was part of His plan all along. This idea rocked my world.

I began to think about men and women, the differences and the similarities. I began to ponder things through. If we were created in His image, both male and female, wouldn't male and female both be part of God’s nature? If men have strengths and characteristics that are uniquely male given to them from the very nature of God, then wouldn’t it be true that the things we claim as uniquely feminine are intrinsically part of God's nature also? If we, male and female, were created in His image then His image must hold the feminine as well as the masculine - right? And if that is the case then it stands to reason that God planned for us all, male and female, since beginning of time.

And there it was. The IGIM (I Got it Moment) that allowed all the pieces to click into place. There is no weaker sex because there's no weakness in God. No one is lesser than the other. No one is an after-thought; no one was created with the sole purpose of entertaining the other. One was not given the best traits and characteristics over the other. We, male and female, were created on purpose for a purpose since the beginning of time. We were created in unison, to compliment each other, not to compete with or dominate each other. We are both, male and female, the image of our Father.

I was raised to know that God created me, the individual, on purpose but for the first time I realized that He created my gender on purpose and the purpose was not what I first thought. Women were not created just to keep men company. They were created as equal partners, as teammates. When God gave the instructions to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, to have dominion He wasn’t just talking to Adam. Eve was there too. She was given the same instructions, the same responsibility, the same purpose. That was the key; God created male and female at the same time with a common purpose. Equal partners, helpmates. Not to be in competition but to help each other, each to bring out the strengths of the other. To be in relationship with each other and to work together.

When God said, “Let us create man in our image” He wasn't having a mental lapse and He wasn't talking to himself.  He was referencing all parts of Himself; Father, Son and Spirit. He is one and He is three, working together. From the beginning He has been in community and since we are created in His image, in its entirety, we have been created to be in community.  Our desire to belong and connect with others is God-given from the beginning of time. Our ability to partner with others, to be stronger together than we would be alone, is part of the very nature of God our Creator.

The very reason God created humans in the first place was out of a desire to be with someone, to have relationship with someone who wasn’t heavenly obligated to be with Him. He wanted to be loved and sought after out of choice not force. He wanted us to want Him because He wanted us. And He wants that for us, too. Male and female. Created with a desire to be in community, in relationship, in partnership with each other.

Then God saw everything that He had made and indeed it was very good.

*This is a chapter except from my book Finding Me in Him

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

This is my 2017

Adventure. Explore. Refine. Trust. Joy. Engage.
Relationship. Insight. Focus. Kindness. Tenacity.
Renew. Transform. Pursue. Persevere. Build.
Live. Brave. Free. Faithful. Passion. Become.

These are some of the words that flooded my Facebook feed on January 1 as my friends, my family, my tribe declared their words for the year. As I read their thoughtfully chosen words, I was filled with hope and encouragement … and envy. Envy because I had no word to share.

In the past, my word as come to me so gently and so organically that I’ve hardly notice it until it was on my lips. The words I have declared at the beginning of the past several years have proven to be absolutely divinely appointed for the year that followed. For instance, 2012 was a year of Surrender. It was also the year I faced and conquered breast cancer. And 2015 was the year to be Available and, it turned out to be, the year I quit my dream job to support my mother in her time of grief. 2016 was the year to Ease-In as unimaginable opportunities presented themselves to me.

Each year that I have had a word, I have found direction and strength of purpose with this word. It has been like a whispered promise and a lighthouse in a storm. It has framed my year and reassured me in my decisions. It has also been challenged and tested which has caused me to rise up with tenacity and boldness to stake my claim in the promise of this word over and over again. Each year, my word has been a gift but this year not so much. This year, the prospect of choosing a word has been a struggle. Each word I have tried on has been too small, too constraining, too limiting. No one word has seemed to fit this year.

In November, when I was at Gather:Women’s day of prayer and vision casting in Toronto, I had a mental image of cupped, open hands. Hands, not tightly gripping or grasping for anything but, relaxed and open to an abundance of everything. I’ve not been able to shake that image since. It’s changing the way I approach life, how I view my place in the world. It’s also setting me free from a world of ‘shoulds’.

I have lived a life full of should. I’ve done what I should, said what I should, felt what I should, served as I should, sacrificed as I should. I have stayed silent when I should, forgiven as I should, loved as I should and obeyed the rules as I should. I have been all the nice, predictable, Christian-girl things I should be and I have lived the nice, predictable, Christian-girl life I should. No regrets.

But now, deep within, I can feel its time for something other. Something more than just all the things I should. It’s time to open my hands, its time to offer my life, my heart, my pen, my words to all that is beyond should. I want a life of abundance. I want to surround myself with deep colors, rich fragrances and endless possibilities. I want to be dangerous and fearless and legendary. I want to cup my hands and feel the water, the earth, the wind and the fire overflow from my palms and slip through my fingers. I want to be as the prairie grass on a summer’s day … dancing in the wind yet rooted in the Source of my very life.

I want more than I should and all that I dare.

I want a life of strength and abundance and offering. I want words of healing and encouragement and hope. I want actions of courage and peace and invitation. I want love that is gentle and fierce and all-in. I want it all.

I want it all.
I rise up and call it mine.
No one word but all the best words.
Not for one year but for all the years of my life.
Not just for me but for all.
For all. For always.

This is my declaration.
This is my battle cry.
This is my love song.
This is my heartbeat.
This is my hope.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I Have a Dream

I have a dream of a home where peace reigns.
A home that is full of laughter, wishes and somedays.
A home that is safe, comfortable and a soft place to land after being out in the world.
A home that is welcoming to all and feels like rest for the weary heart.
A home that encourages and strengthens and champions the hearts of all who enter.
A home where grace abounds, forgiveness is given before it's asked for and second chances are endless.
I have a dream of a home that heals the soul.

I have a dream of a community where peace reigns.
A community that is inclusive, welcoming and open.
A community that seeks out the lonely and makes a friend out of a stranger.
A community where trust is stronger than suspicion.
A community where the kindness of your heart matters more than the money in your account.
A community that sees, values and protects it's most vulnerable and marginalized members.
I have a dream of a community that is a sanctuary.

I have a dream of a city where peace reigns.
A city that is known for kindness and  generosity and love.
A city that respects the land and history and lives of those who built it.
A city that builds it's strength from the 'least of these' and up.
A city that works toward a future of civil responsibility, trust and respect.
A city that is for all people, of all nations, of all faiths, of all genders.
I have a dream of a city that invests in the hope of our future.

I have a dream of a nation where peace reigns.
A nation where all people have access to clean water, safe homes and quality education.
A nation where mothers and daughters and sisters are safe, protected and empowered.
A nation where differences are seen as strengths not threats.
A nation where our children see that bullying is a disgrace no matter how old, wealthy, popular or powerful you are.
A nation where being glorious and free is a promise kept to all citizens.
I have a dream of a nation known for dignity, strength and inclusion.

I have a dream of a world where peace reigns.
A world where each of us uses our voice and influence for good and not for evil.
A world where reason and basic human decency is stronger than fear.
A world where our value as a human is not dependant on the resources of our nation.
A world where no one dies just trying to live.
A world where slavery is extinct.
I have a dream of a world where peace and hope and beauty and respect flourish.

I have a dream.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ubuntu is Here

My purse is heavy. So is my heart.

It's Mr. Awesome's day off. This usually means a day spent wondering our city, sipping lattes and dreaming of and planning for our future. We usually end up at The Forks on days like this. With that in mind, I put on my turquoise pendant that he bought for me in South Dakota last summer. I slide on a few of my favourite beaded bracelets, one made by mothers in Kenya working to care for their families, another purchased to support clean water on Reserves here in Canada and one more that reminds me to love and serve. I slip into my soft suede moccasins, hand stitched by a tribe intent on staying connected to the old ways. I do all this with intention because I know the path we will walk today and I know the weight in my heart and in my purse.

I've been on a journey of a million miles. Some of these miles I have walked with my feet but most of the miles I have walked with my heart. I am trying to understand the unfathomable. I am trying to hear the stories of those who are long dead. I am trying to bear witness to the suffering that is a combination of screams and echoes. I am trying to listen. I am trying to learn.

I was raised in hope. In doing better and having more. In leaving what was and pursuing what could be. I was raised in love and faith and anticipation. I was raised in letting go of the past. In letting go. In letting go.

And yet, here I am digging up a past that is not mine but yet is so personal.

I've learned the word Ubuntu and now I see it, feel it, everywhere. All of The Things are connected. This is because of that and that is a result of this and this is possible because of that. My mind is racing. My heart is full. My truth is broken.

All the things I thought I knew are in question. What I was taught, what I thought, what I reasoned out is all just off the mark. There is something missing in my well thought out equation.

Ah, yes. It's Ubuntu.

My heart is heavy because Residential Schools, because rape on university campuses, because 89 boil water advisories on reserves, because refugees drowning in the sea, because murdered and missing women, because travellers blown up in airports, because millions of orphans, because genocide, because honour killings, because human trafficking, because hate filled churches and fear based politics, because the death penalty and abortion and euthanasia, because racism, sexism, ageism, because homophobia, because suicide.

Because my shoes, my pendant, my bracelets. Because my heritage. Because I am connected to all of this. Because Ubuntu. Because my purse is heavy.

Oh that, my purse. It's heavy because I am carrying 98 suicide notes just now. Not mine. Yet, all mine. I didn't write them yet I feel them. I recognize the words of pain, fear, exhaustion and isolation but these notes are not significant because of those words. These notes are significant because they are here. With me. They are not haunting a grieving parent. They are not echoing the pain of a hurt community. They are not the final words of a broken heart. They are not evidence of a life lost too soon, too tragically.

They are hope.
They are surrender.
They are the semi colon.
Thankfully, not a period.

These notes were given to my friend as he has travelled across Canada, spreading his message of hope and strength. These notes are the evidence of promises made. Promises to stop, to look up, to choose life. Promises to live just for today. Promises to make today count. They are Ubuntu.

As I compare the weight in my heart to the weight in my purse I know that hope can win. I know that because of Ubuntu we can live. I know that our suffering can also be our healing. If we share. If we talk, If we listen. If we bear witness, hold space and engage with compassion. If we remove 'us' and 'them' and become Ubuntu hope can win. I've seen it. I feel it.

I stand at The Forks, where the rivers meet. I place my hand on the monument to the missing and murdered indigenous women. I touch Ubuntu. I look down at my moccasins and I see Ubuntu. I shift my heavy purse on my shoulder and I feel Ubuntu. I smell the scent of the green grass and the flowers and the trees mix with the indescribable scent of the river and I know Ubuntu is here.

Life is here.
Community is here.
Hope is here.

Ubuntu - term roughly translating to "human kindness." It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally "human-ness", and is often translated as "humanity towards others", but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity"

Friday, May 20, 2016

In the Quiet

It's quiet in my house. Quiet is a rare experience in my world - both internally and externally.

The noises that populate my external world are heavy footsteps running up the stairs, the microwave beeping, laughter turned to bickering and back to laughter, dishes rattling, car doors slamming and 'good nights' yelled across hallways. These are the sounds of life and family and growing up.

Internally the noise is very different. It's a constant whirring of my brain trying to sort out my life. It's a cycling of what-ifs and worries and hopes. It's the sound of chaos and I hate it. But today the whirring stopped. Or maybe it stopped yesterday. It could have stopped last week, even. I'm not sure when, really. I just know that today it's quiet.

Ages ago, Christine Caine delivered a message where she talked about our lives being like an arrow; in order to be launched forward we need to experience the tension of being pulled back. That's how I feel. I feel like I have lived in the tension of being pulled back, of being readied for what's next. This tension felt terrible. It was uncomfortable and a key cause of the whirring. In this tension I struggled with the feeling of being left behind while knowing that there's always a 'What's Next'. I had to learn to be present in the tension. To learn from it. To rest in it. I had to learn to find quiet in the waiting. And I did.

During the last several months I have learned to trust my silence, to be at peace with the tension and to be confident in my own truth. Sounds kind of New Agey but its what I know to be true. I have always been intrigued with the Bible verse Luke 2:19

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

I'm a verbal processor and my first instinct is to talk out whatever is happening in my life with someone wiser and more experienced. So how is it Mary, a young teen with the Savior of the World growing supernaturally inside of her, could just sit with that truth and ponder it on her own? How could she trust herself to understand it? How could she even breathe  in that tension? How could she trust herself  in that situation when I second guess myself in every situation?

She didn't trust herself. She trusted The Spirit of God in her. The moment I understood the the whirring slowed. The more aware I became of The Spirit of God in me, the voice in my heart that prompts me, the slower the whirring got and eventually it stopped.

And now it's quiet.

It's quiet enough that I can breathe. I can think. I can listen. I can feel compassion. I can sense direction. I can speak with my eyes, with my heart, when words are inadequate. I can sit in my aloneness and be at peace with myself. I can hear another's truth without questioning my own truth.I can see there is space for both, space for all.

This week I participated in a conversation on race, oppression and faith. It happened over the course of three days and was facilitated by the marvellous Idelette McVicker. During this conversation, the 20 participants shared their stories and listened, listened deeply, with compassion, to the stories of others. I am profoundly changed by what I heard and what I learned this week. It's hard to even talk about it because it was so sacred and so raw. I can't even.

There are two things that echoed in the circle and surrounded it while we shared. It was the linked ideas of Deep Listening and Ubuntu. Deep Listening is the idea that we enter the conversation with the intention of listening with compassion and without judgement. Our role is to simply listen so that the teller's suffering may be heard and somehow lessened by our compassionate listening. Ubuntu is the idea of community. It is "I am because we are." It is the recognition that our stories, though different, are linked. This is what I heard in the quiet.

So, it's quiet. I sit in the quiet, pondering like Mary, trusting that God is in this place of tension and that whatever comes next will come when I am ready. I sit, ready to listen with compassion and respond with grace. I hear Ubuntu in my heartbeat. It's strong, it's alive and it is in the quiet.

As I am in the Quiet.