The Darkest Valley

The story of Timothy Bosma is stuck in my heart.

I didn’t know him. I did however grow up amongst the Dutch (though my last name was Grant- far from Dutch!) and experienced the very tight-knit community they share first hand. I also know people who knew Tim. I suppose this made me feel a little connected, though I am sure I would have felt this tragedy regardless.

I watched the footage of Tim’s widow speaking at the funeral. Her acknowledgement that people are suggesting Tim had some prior connection to the murderer(s) or that he made a stupid mistake getting into the truck was, in my opinion, brave. She went on to say that such comments are born out of fear: fear that if this could happen to a “regular” guy, doing a “regular” thing  it could happen to anyone.

I agree with her.

The truth is, horrible things happen. Every day. Much of the time these things happen far enough away that we can, for better or worse, remain detached. Sometimes though they happen in our neighbourhood, or on our street, or in our very own homes. It is during these times that we come alive to the challenge and frailty of life. Grief knocks on our door and makes itself comfortable, making us completely uncomfortable in the process. When tragedies happen to me I become much more attuned to the weeping and gnashing of teeth in those places that previously felt so far away.

I don’t know why this happened to Tim. I don’t know what could have happened in the life of whoever did this that made such an act possible. What I do know is the amazing beauty evident in the way the Bosma family and their community have responded to this. They have modeled compassion, gratitude, faith and togetherness. In the midst of the unthinkable they have clung to one another and the God who promises so much more than this messed up world.

Sharlene Bosma has described herself as “broken”. May she, may we all, be one day made complete.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

-from Psalm 23

Seeing the Sky

I was lying on my bed this morning looking out the window at the amazingly huge old maple tree across the street. Looking at this tree is nothing new. New this morning though was me noticing the sky beyond it. I’m always staring at the leaves, trying to catch a glimpse of the colour and clouds of the sky through them. It’s actually easy to see the sky by just moving my chin up a little higher.

It occurred to me that this illustrates how I’m feeling these days. I am moving around a little more freely and with some clarity of vision. This instead of being bogged down by other people’s expectations of me, instead of worrying about everything that may or may not happen (be it good or bad), instead of staring at the all the things perceivably “in the way”. I’m not saying I have it all together. I do worry; I make mistakes; I get tired; I weep over broken things. What’s different is the new freedom I feel to just be transparently present in each moment. A number of people, including my own mother, have told me that lately I look relaxed and “lighter”. I didn’t think my deep-down internal worries actually manifested themselves on my exterior. I was wrong.

Maybe ironically it is by being in the moment that I can better take in the whole picture. Take for instance PNC: there are so many things/tasks I need to do on a daily basis, it would be easy to get lost in them and entirely forget about the whole point of why I am there. When I remember to drink in each moment I am gripped by the beauty of the community and the promise of our future together. I become better equipped to envision where we are headed and share the story of the journey.

A new work is being done in my heart. It’s like God has broken me open. He’s parting the trees so that I can also see the sky.




The Trip According to Cate

I am trying to get back into the swing of things. It’s, well, a little slow going- mostly due to my internal clock being askew. We went on a faraway trip that was beautiful, inspiring and in every sense worth the jet lag. This trip was only possible because of an invitation Dion received to speak. We had a stop-over in Paris, stayed with friends in Hungary and got put-up in a flat at a Salvation Army shelter in Prague. It was a wonderful way to travel. At various moments along the way I “interviewed” Cate. We would lie on a bed, pull out the voice recorder conveniently located in my phone and she would talk. Here are some snippets.

“Cate, How was Paris?”

“It was awesome. The Eiffel Tower was…AHHHH. It was huge and at night it was so sparkly. I loved going up and seeing the view. I also liked the food, the Arc De Triomph, the double-decker bus and the Louvre.

The Mona Lisa was really beautiful and all the artifacts from like the year 520. I like that different people from a very long time ago used the stuff and it is stuff that I might never find or use now.”

“What about Hungary and Prague?”

“I loved the weather. All the food was interesting. They use a lot of paprika. I won’t forget the old buildings that actually have gun shot holes in them from the times of warfare and the Roman Coliseum from when Jesus was around. I also learned about Communism. It wasn’t very long ago that it happened. I heard that some people are still learning how to trust their neighbours. I also learned a lot about people who are Roma. Andrew and Darlene [our hosts] taught us all about Hungarian history. Our interpreter friend Szabolcs told us that ‘Szia’ (See ya) can mean hello and goodbye in Hungarian. He also was very kind and gave me many treats.

I love all the castles.

The only thing I didn’t like: the mosquitoes. Oh, and the way my ears feel when the plane is landing.

I learned that in Hungary they have Name Days. It is almost as important as your birthday. Someone might give you a gift on the day. My name here in Hungary is Cottie, short for Cotelyn.”

“Could you give me your Top List of things on this trip? In no particular order.”

1. The Hungarian BBQ.

2. The weather.

3. How you can walk on the streets.

4. The sunsets. The sunset in Balaton was AHHH, just like the Eiffel Tower.

5. The different light switches and plugs.

6. The flowers and trees. Nature.

7. The handmade things in shops.

8. The Eiffel Tower, the Prague Castle and Budapest lit up at night.

9. The hot pools (which are very hot).

10. The food (which is very meaty).

Nothing like hearing about a trip through the eyes of a ten-year old. I hope that she never forgets it. And I’m glad that she some of her top items are things she can experience no matter what part of the world she is in.

Thankfully there are sunsets that are AHHH everywhere.


I have been rather silent here since departing on a fantastic journey over the ocean. I am currently in Hungary: mostly Budapest, but right now in a town called Balatonfoldvar. This trip has got me mulling over many things, not least of which, Communism.

On a trip to Cuba many years ago, the bus driver taking us to Havana pointed to a large statue of Jesus and announced, “now there’s the first Communist”. Sad that the communists who followed didn’t understand what Jesus was actually talking about. Under the Communist regime, people fled countries such as Hungary in order to find the freedom to worship, to own enough to survive and to escape the imminent danger of being killed. I spoke to a man this morning through an interpreter who explained that his parents were Salvation Army Officers before the war until their work was “closed” by the government. Though a classless, moneyless, stateless social order was the goal, it never worked.

As our hosts led us through Budapest earlier this week, they somewhat lamented the arrival of Starbucks. They spoke of how major revolutions began over a small cup of espresso, chased by a glass of sparkling water in the small kávé shops. It’s harder to have important conversations when you order a large cup of coffee to go. While there are many statues of Lenin and Stalin (though now housed in “Memento Park”), there are more of poets and others who participated in major social change.

My mind went to the many coffee shops along the Queen Street West strip in Parkdale. What would it look like to participate in revolution from the PNC office on the street? I long to learn how to really share all that has been given to me in abundance with those who have less. I want to grasp all that is given to me out of apparent poverty. I hope that in the process the lines between classes, if not eradicated, will be entirely blurred.

I look forward to the time when Jesus will truly make us all the same. In the meantime, I desire to be changed, to be revolutionized. Maybe it could even happen in the little coffee shop at the corner of Queen and Dunn.