Fierce Love

I am tired.

I’m sitting outside, listening to some birds, finally getting some food into my stomach after a long day of packing up PNC. There are so many details to be taken care of and my mind is a buzz. Writing calms me, so here I am.

I am very ready to be done this week. It’s not that it hasn’t been good- in fact, there have been many lovely moments: a Farewell Open Mic on Friday, a quiet service on Sunday after an encouraging morning at another church, a warm final drop-in yesterday and lots of help with packing today. It’s that we are finally staring down the move out of 201 Cowan and about to embark on the reboot that I proposed months ago. The expenses have been brought down, some final bills are being paid, a post office box has been secured and yes, we are spilling out into the neighbourhood. I am excited and hopeful and anxious.

I am also feeling vulnerable and under-housed. The community seems to connect with these feelings. People are drawing close and seeing that I “get” (in a whole new way) a lot of what they are constantly going through. We are on this journey together and it is deepening our bond. I have long felt protected by my friends in Parkdale, though now it feels even fiercer. And it truly goes both ways. I am prepared to do whatever I can to help see my community continue.

I have been brought to tears on more than a few occasions this week, and am sure this will continue. Sometimes they are tears born out of being entirely overwhelmed, but more often they are tears of gratitude. I am oh so grateful. Grateful for the way people are gathering around, for overhearing someone describe PNC as a place full of love, for having enough when it seems the well is dry, for being given this opportunity to be a leader who follows and for believing that God has promised us a future.

This trusting stuff is tiring. And deeply good.


Inhale, Exhale

There are days when I feel like I am constantly reminding myself to breathe. Today was one of those days. Inhale, exhale, repeat.

On my way to PNC I was imagining how this day might unfold, especially considering that Souad, my trusted Volunteer Kitchen Coordinator was going to be away. Monday is our busiest day. We easily see up to 120 people, all of whom come to eat. Add to the mix that PNC is in severe financial constraints, attempting a move by the end of the month and employer to one staff (me) and you get a girl who needs to remember to breathe. I kept thinking, “God, I need Your help. Today I need to lean into You”.

Instead of listening to music on my way in, I decided to listen to the sound of air moving through my mouth and out my nose. Inhale, exhale. This act is surprisingly calming.

Throughout the day this sense of calm pervaded the craziness. At the grocery store I only had to buy 5 lbs of carrots- the smallest shop for a drop-in I think maybe ever. There was lots of help in the kitchen and a soup/stew, bread and salad hit the tables on-time. People danced to the live music provided by Peter at the piano. I had to help diffuse a few situations outside the building that could have gone even more sideways. And actually it provided the opportunity for me to have productive conversations with the police and neighbours who are particularly feeling like my community shouldn’t be in their backyard. Someone new to PNC shook my hand as he left and said, “it does my heart good to be here”. Ah, yes- take a deep breath for there is so much good.

I am admittedly tired after a very full day. I am also so very relieved and amazed at how yet again we have been provided for. I suppose I should stop being surprised, though I enjoy the wonderment I feel again and again.

On my way home I started to think about everything that needs to happen this week. Fortunately before I got too caught up in the worry I was reminded of my early morning prayer and the way in which it was answered. God indeed helped.

Inhale, exhale, repeat.

Eulogy Redefined, plural eu.lo.gies

1. A speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a set oration in honour of a deceased person.

2. High praise or commendation.

I think it’s about time the definition of eulogy was changed to, “especially a set oration in honour of an alive person”. I’m not sure why it is that we save such speeches for those who have left us. What if we started “eulogizing” people while our words could serve to encourage them?

A couple of years ago we did just that at PNC. Once a month or so we would choose a member of the community to express our gratitude to. We shared memories, talked about their obvious personality traits, offered thanks for who they are and what they mean to us. It wasn’t an exercise in putting someone up on a pedestal. In fact, I felt it important that it be just the opposite: it was to honour our shared humanity. We each have strengths and weaknesses; we each succeed and fail; we each grieve and rejoice. And yes, we each have been fearfully and wonderfully made.

Death touches all of us. Regardless of how different our life circumstances are, we will each experience death. As I ponder this, I am struck by how important it is to really live life. It is not something to be taken for granted. I want to breathe deeply with all my senses. I want to care deeply about the people who co-journey with me while treating well those who I have but brief contact with. In all of it I want to rest in the hope that death is actually not the end.

When death comes, I do want the opportunity to eulogize. My desire is that it will be a speech that my friend will already have heard.

Grilled Cheese Artist

My daughter Cate recently had a chance to be part of a cool project called, “These Are the People in Your Neighbourhood”. With guidance from the Mammalian Diving Reflex and Madeleine Collective (look them up!), her grade 4 class got to know local store owners- their personal likes and dislikes,  as well as the reasons they decided to open a store. They were encouraged to imagine what kind of business they might open. Cate’s idea: a store called “Totally Hamster”. Oh, my sweet girl. On two Saturday afternoons the class gathered on the corner of a local intersection. From there they led a group of people on a tour of the storefronts they now know very well.

This whole project culminated in a beautiful gala event. Cate and her friends got to see their art displayed, including Cate’s rendering of a store dedicated to hamsters, sculpt clay, participate in a cartoon jam, listen to the stories created by the Pocketology Collective (quick! Empty your pockets and let the contents tell a story!) and view a documentary created about this whole experience.

Maybe most memorable for Cate was the opportunity to make and serve grilled cheese to the many gala attendees. Kids could either serve lemonade or be a “grilled cheese artist”. Cate donned an apron and very happily sandwiched cheese between two slices of bread that she spread with butter. She loved the Panini style grill she got to cook them on. All evening she kept saying, “this is SO MUCH FUN”.

Since that evening Cate has been a grilled cheese artist at home too. Maybe it’s a calling. Tonight she branched out and added bacon, tomato and fresh basil to the cheese. She even placed a sprig of dill on the top. I have to say, it makes me smile to see her creating in the kitchen. So much so, that I’ll even eat grilled cheese tomorrow- the fourth day in a row.



Not Alone

Lately I have been asked by numerous people, “how do you do it? How do you remain patient? How do you manage to be so strong in such challenging times?”.

The only thing I’m sure of is that any patience or strength I have is not really my own. True too is that I have moments when I look neither. I know that not all of you reading this believe in God. I also know that the vast majority of you know I do. I believe that God is sustaining me in all of the wildness that is PNC right now. Left to my own devices I would be feeling neither patient OR strong. In fact, when I listen to myself say things like “we had to give notice in our building without having a place to go; I’m the only staff person who needs to find funding both for myself and the organization; right now we’re doing everything we normally do with programming; the phone is cut, but you can call my cell-phone…” I think, THIS IS CRAZY.

Then something else happens.

Second Harvest arrives with an amazing donation. All I need to buy at the grocery store for Monday is a few bulbs of garlic, olive oil, cucumbers and some sweet onions. We have a chickpea/eggplant salad, green salad with homemade dressing, potato salad and chicken. Before we eat I get to announce that we will be moving but one block away for our Mondays. We all cheer.

A man who goes by “Grumpy” on the street pulls me aside and suggests that we change our name from PNC to “Hope and Goodness”.

We get to fill our plot at the community garden with herbs for our kitchen.

People who have never been involved before are showing up, helping out and wanting to be a part of this work.

A long-time friend and co-worker in other areas of my life has stepped up and offered her bookkeeping and administrative skills to the mix. What a relief!

On a dark day in terms of finances someone, without hesitation, offers to help. I can’t do anything but cry.

All of these moments, these little happenings, serve as reminders that I am not alone. There is a large group of people gathering around. And at the end of the day, when I am home and trying to imagine how tomorrow is going to be, the still small voice of God reminds me I am actually never alone. And I am urged to be patient and strong because He is those things.

What a ride.