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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Happens When We Gather

We are Seen.
We are Heard.
We are Valued.
We are Connected.
We are Brave.

My dad died. I quit my job. We moved. I was bored. I applied for a book launch team. I was rejected. I met 4500 other rejects. We became sister-warrior-friends. I applied to another book launch. I was accepted. I heard a whisper about women coming together to celebrate and empower each other. The whisper became a roar. I drove 2300km to see this thing for myself. I am changed.

Our road from Point A to Point B is rarely a straight line and almost never the path that we expect. I am beginning to realize our path is made from the braided fabric of our everyday choices and deepest heart dreams. All of the little bits of us are weaved together to form the most beautiful, random carpet of our life.

When I was 18 years old I wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to be in full time ministry. I wanted to teach people about the Jesus I knew. I wanted to be a listening ear and a soft place to land. I wanted to encourage and inspire. I wanted to work alongside my fellow followers for the good of The Kingdom. I wanted to lead and learn and grow and love in ministry. And then all of the tiny, crazy, unexpected pieces of life happened and years passed. I felt as though I had missed my chance.

I spent years wifing, mothering, friending and surviving. My home, and heart, was filled with tiny people - some I gave birth to and are forever mine, others came to our home to be cared for and loved for a season before moving on into their next step. I filled my days with play groups, trips to the library and coffee dates at the park. My night were long, sleepless and filled with desperate prayers for my children, my neighbour's children, my friends' marriages, for the sick, the broken hearted, the lost and and the hurting. I longed for More but life was already more than I could manage.

Those years faded into the Middle Years. The Wee Ones grew. We branched out to see the world, to see our neighbours. We donated to those in need, served breakfast to the homeless, took supplies to areas devastated by natural disasters. The kids held craft sales and bake sales to help sick children and former child soldiers. We volunteered at church and in our community but it still wasn't enough. Not for me. Not for my heart that ached to be In Ministry.

Then it happened! I became a pastor. I was asked to do the very thing I had longed dreamed of. I was In Ministry. I lead Children's Ministry and Ladies Bible Studies and Family Events. I trained a team of volunteers, talked about the Jesus I knew and listened to the dear hearts in my world. I was living the dream! And then I wasn't.

The decision to leave my position at the church was devastating on many levels. Leaving the community I had grown to love, the friends who became like family, left me feeling wingless and vulnerable. Leaving the role as 'pastor' was heartbreaking. It was all I had wanted and never thought I'd have and now it was gone - almost as if it had never happened. I felt lost, out of sync and finished. The year that followed was difficult. The struggle to remember that my identity was not found in a job title but in Christ was daily. I felt so disconnected from everything that had brought me joy.

It took the better part of 9 months for me to get a grip on myself again. It took connecting with my 4500 fellow book launch rejectees. It took reconnecting with old friends from my high school and young adult days. It took reading my own book to remind myself of what I already knew. It took hearing the echoes of my dad's voice saying, 'Give your head a shake!" It took all these pieces, and more, to wake me up to the truth that I have always been In Ministry.

Every trip to the park with the tines, every prayer whispered in the twilight hours, every casual chat in the school yard, every cup of coffee poured and laugh shared between friends was ministry. The boxes of toys my kids packed for an orphanage in Mexico was ministry. The hours they spent making beaded necklaces to sell to help former child soldiers was ministry. Standing on a chilly street corner, handing out coffee to the the homeless was ministry. Staying up all night to watch my dad sleep, so my mom could rest in those last days of his life was ministry. Walking beside my mom daily on her grief journey was ministry. And opening my heart to The One, the few, the many that I have encountered over the years is ministry.

This life of ministry, and the revelation that this is the life I live, is what brought me to the moment of walking into a church 2300km from home and feeling more at home than I had in ages. I was suddenly with My People again. The People who do the hard work of life, side by side, and love each other better for it. The People who feel deeply, think deeply and love endlessly. The People who are imperfect and know it but show up anyway. The People who care about the Big Things while living through the small things. The People who talk about things that matter, like poverty, equality, justice and mercy, while wearing leopard print and heels. The People who the beauty in me just as I see the beauty in them.

I sat in this place of utter belonging and soaked in every word, whisper and prayer spoken. I was on the verge of tears all day because I could not believe that such a place was real. That there were really other people who felt both too much and not enough, also, but were claiming their place as fully enough in Christ. I felt as though I was sitting in a dream.

And then we took communion together.

It was there in that holy moment that I looked up and saw them. Not the women in the room, not these beautiful strangers who share my heart but the familiar faces who share my life. My People. The ones I have lived this whole life with. The ones who have sipped my coffee and shared my story. The ones who have nursed their babies on my living room couch. The ones who held my hand as I cried at their kitchen table. The ones who have surrounded me every day of my life - with their prayer and their presence. These beautiful women of my everyday life. These are My People … The People.

It took me gathering with strangers halfway across the country to remember that there are people right here, in the heart of the prairies, who care and love and think and serve and dream and live deeply and passionately. There are people right here who are starving for connection, who are looking for an opportunity to Be More and Love More. There are brave, strong, lovely people right here with beautiful stories of redemption, reconciliation, hope recovered and faith filled lives. There are people right here.

This place I went to discover all of this was an event called Gather Women. Its an invitation to connect and share the stories that are uniquely Canadian, that are uniquely us. The heart of Gather Women is to inspire and empower women to gather where they are, with the women in their world, to encourage and celebrate what God is doing in every corner of our beautiful country. This movement is just beginning but its growing strong.

I encourage you to learn more about Gather Women and consider how you might invite the women in your world to gather with you. Gather Circles is a great way to open the door to conversations and relationships. Invite a couple of ladies over and spend six weeks learning together. Or check out one of the Regional Events. I know that this sounds a bit like an info-mercial but I LOVE what Gather Women is doing! I will write more about this movement and what it is teaching me in the weeks and months to come. I invite you to journey with me. Once you've connected with Gather Women (the blog is a great place to start) please feel free to comment here or on my author page on Facebook. I'll be posting quotes and thoughts from the Gather Event I attended and from the different speakers and leaders of Gather during the coming weeks. I'll also be hosting a Gather Circle in Winnipeg.

I have long dreamed of a day when God's daughters would link arms across Canada to celebrate, empower, dream and act on His behalf. That day is here. Gather Women is doing it! Ive seen it and I want to be part of it because when we gather …

We are Seen.
We are Heard.
We are Valued.
We are Connected.
We are Brave.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Easing In

Monday, after the kids' first day back at school post-Christmas break, Joyboy hopped into the van and sighed heavily.

"What's up, kid? Didn't have a good day?" I asked.

"It was all right. It's just that it's a new year but everything was the same as before."

Yep. So … Happy New Year and … whatever.

When I was twelve, I travelled immediately after Christmas with my aunt and uncle to visit family in another province. I spent New Year's Eve with my aunt and her sons. We watched a movie, played a few games and then minutes before midnight she started handing out pots, pans and wooden spoons and told us to go outside. I thought she was nuts but it turned out that the whole town was a little loopy because we weren't the only ones out on the street in our pjs and with cook wear in hand. At the stroked of midnight the air was filled a cacophony of whoops, hollers and the banging of pots and pans. In under a minute the neighbourhood fell silent again and we went inside and straight to bed. Tons of hoopla then nothing.

For months before New Year's Eve 1999, people worried, planned, speculated and dreaded the anticipated fall out from the clocks rolling over to 2000. Some experts predicted a total, world-wide computer failure that would spark food shortages, water contamination and riots. I knew people - personally knew people - who were stockpiling food, water, batteries and weapons for the impending apocalypse. People were crazy with fear. I watched the midnight come and go in Australia, Asia and Europe and nothing happened. No computer virus taking out world systems. No riots. No shortages or panic. It was all very anti-climatic. I went to bed before midnight local time and the world kept on humming. Nothing changed.

2016. A new year. Same friends. Same family. Same co-workers. Same job. Same church. Same commitments. Same schedule. Same hopes. Same dreams. Same. Same. Same.

Before you abandon this post as the most depressing thing you've read so far this year take a minute and read that last sentence again. Read it with your inflections going up instead of down. It's all the same. You don't have to start over. You don't have to figure it all out from the beginning. Its all the same today as it was on December 31 at 11:59pm. There's no pressure here. There's no expectation of grand changes and life altering moments. It's just the same.

I think sometimes we put too much pressure on the new year. We place all our hopes on a new year being a significant moment of change. We make crazy resolutions. We make bold pronouncements. We make wild wishes. And then we hold our breath, cross our fingers and plead with the heavens to come through for us. Come on, Universe, don't leave me hanging! I've tweeted that this is my year! Don't let me down! Then when life continues to happen, as it inevitably does, we feel let down and discouraged. The New Year disappointed us. There's nothing new, just all the same. Blah.

What if we do things differently this year? What if 2016 isn't all about what's new? What if 2016 is all about taking the good from 2015 and bringing it forward? What if 2016 welcomed The Same with open arms and continued to build on to what 2015 and 2014 and 2013 and so on had already established as pretty solid and stellar? What if we eased into this year with no expectation but only permission to keep moving forward? What would that look like?

I figure it would turn 2016 into a year to be proud of. I think it would be a year of growth by degrees, of more smiles than tears, more love than frustration and more sustainable change than short term gestures. I think it would leave room for more self-love, bigger dreams and even a few calculated risks. I think we would be kinder to ourselves and others by the time this new year became old. I think we would be bolder, braver, smarter, wiser and more compassionate than ever before. I think 2016 would be the best year ever if we would only take the time to ease our way in.

Some of my Facebook buddies have suggested choosing a word or phrase as a theme for this year rather than making a resolution. Some of done it in the past and it's been very meaningful for them. I've not done it before but I might this year. This year my phrase may become 'Ease In'. I think I need that reminder. I can tend to be a bit of a bull in a china shop. I can also tend towards fretting when I can't see a clear path ahead. I've been in the weeds for months and its made me a bit wonky. I think I need to remember to ease in and that Winnie the Pooh once said, "Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them." So maybe I'm not in the weeds. Maybe I'm in the wild flowers. Maybe I'm in exactly the spot I'm meant to be. Maybe I'll know that better when I ease in.

Change is good but rushing isn't. Growth is necessary but stretching yourself past the breaking point isn't. Goals and dreams are vital but unattainable expectations are damaging. Plan. Look ahead. Move forward … just at an easy pace rather than a headlong charge. Just ease in a bit.

And what's a butterfly? At best,
He's but a caterpillar, at rest.
~John Grey