Reason 1001

While sitting in the Tim Horton’s during our outreach time last night I noticed them taking notice of us.

Two young-ish (I’m terrible with age) men were clearly perplexed by The Dale team engaging with so many people who, as they put it, are “homeless”. It was so cold last night that the coffee shop was pretty full. We got to say hello to more than a couple of community friends.

I was waiting close to the door when one of the guys piped up and asked, “what exactly are you doing?”. I introduced myself and talked about what we do at The Dale. Apparently they had seen us the week before giving out what seemed to be money to the same person over and over again, felt concerned and thought about intervening on our behalf. I was pleased to explain the money in question was actually tokens and that we know well the fellow receiving them.

I ended up having a really positive conversation with two people who are no longer strangers.

This is reason number one thousand and ONE that I love being a church without walls. For those of you new to The Dale’s journey, we do not have a building of our own. We instead spend time in buildings around the neighbourhood and outside. These two people would likely have never met us had we not decided to hang out at 9 pm in Tim Horton’s on a blisteringly cold night, nor would they have considered speaking to anyone who they would identify as homeless.

Next week we’ll buy them a coffee and introduce them to a few people.

I love it.

I have a friend who lives on the street, drinks a lot of cheap alcohol and is estranged from the life he grew up in. When I talk about hope he counters with, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know what hope even means”.

Fair enough.

I do believe that when I am talking to my friend who self-describes himself as hopeless, I have to be willing to share the reality of my own life when explaining the hope I know.

I don’t think that I have made it a secret on these pages that I have my own share of difficulties. My parents divorced when I was seven and my brother three. I have spent much of my life battling the desire to be a people pleaser and so-called perfectionist. I’ve had my heart broken. My husband has Multiple Sclerosis, which he was diagnosed with while we were first engaged, nearly 17 years ago. My Dad died suddenly and too soon in 2008. My Mom has lived in hospital for 10 years as of 2014- this the result of removing a brain tumour which would have caused the same damage had it been left alone.

These are some of the bigger ticket items in my life and of course don’t tell the whole story. The trouble with a list like the one above is that it fails to communicate the complications that arose out of each item. True too is that these are not strictly my OWN things, they involve many others. I am not an island.

The truth is, I don’t get why the storms around me have very rarely been calmed. I have shed buckets of tears, both in front of people and hidden away behind closed doors. I have screamed at and wrestled with God until completely exhausted. I have argued that it is entirely false that “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. I have thought that hope was in fact, all lost.

Somewhere in the midst of each struggle I have been given strength. I am this weak girl who has strength not my own. I am ever so slowly watching my heart being healed. I am learning to be present to the moment, where I catch glimpses of light and hope as simple as being handed a cup of cold water by my friend- the friend who until that moment thought he had nothing left to give.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9


A couple of Sundays ago I was busy setting things up for our afternoon service. A community member (I’ll call him Tom) showed up to help and chat.

Tom is one of my younger folks, someone who many might refer to as more of a “street kid”. He has a mop of dark hair, likes to wear baggy clothes and walks with his head down. Tom’s reality is one where couch surfing, eating at drop-in centres and hustling for money is the norm. He also regularly makes me laugh out-loud.

On this day Tom was telling me about having spoken to a family member for the first time in 3-ish years. He decided to call because it was Christmas. Since connecting he has been contemplating the truth that if this person dies, he will no longer have any blood relatives. He repeatedly said, “Erinn I’m gonna be totally alone”.

I found myself listening to much of Tom’s story while standing by the counter in the small kitchen. I heard about his childhood, his desire to fit in, his struggle with substances. Absent-mindedly I poured some milk into a container and tossed the drained carton into a recycling bin.

Tom stopped mid sentence and said, “Erinn! You aren’t recycling properly. Look, let me show you…”. Tom retrieved the carton, rinsed it out, flattened it and gently placed it back in the bin. He told me that recycling is one of the few things he can do to make sure the world is a little better. I immediately felt his chastisement and learned my lesson. Though I think he thought it weird, I was moved by the experience. There was something beautiful about the care he took with the one thing he has control of.

My heart is large for Tom. In some ways he feels like my kid, and if I’m not mistaken he feels like it too. His real life stories often make me wince and wish it could all be different. I tell him frequently that he is not alone and I hope against hope that he believes it.

I also tell him that I every time I recycle I now think of him.


Resolutions, Sort Of.

I’m not so good at New Year’s resolutions.

It’s not that I don’t believe in striving for helpful change in my life. Actually, I’m quite the opposite. It’s just that I find the heat produced by making a change “cold turkey” goes rather tepid come, say, January 15th. *Ahem* It’s far too easy to fall off the proverbial wagon and then give up. I do like a definition of resolution that I recently found: it’s the “process of reducing things into simpler forms”. That sounds right, because for me it’s all about baby steps, that making a mistake doesn’t mean all hope is lost, that each day is a new day.

With this in mind, I am taking some time to imagine what I would love to do/see/create/learn in the coming year(s). In no particular order:

Fold laundry soon after it comes out of the dryer. When I actually do this it makes its way into drawers and I feel far more relaxed. Hey, if this is the ONLY place I can lessen stress in my life, than I’m game.

The Oxford car has turned into a taxi and storage room for The Dale. It has been determined that due to my husband Dion’s health he must (read: only, ever) drive using hand controls. Our car is now equipped with these. So, I am now dreaming about getting what I already affectionately call a “Dale-mobile”. I figure if we can’t have walls of our own, we could maybe have wheels. Having a vehicle of our own would allow us even more freedom to help people move; visit people in hospitals, treatment programs and jails all over the city; accompany people to appointments; and of course, store stuff. We’ll see!

I hope to grow The Dale’s staff team.

I will endeavour to not worry about money at home or at work. The last two years have taught me a great deal about this. We have been provided for in beautiful and often unexpected ways. Further, I will work to give even more away.

Read more.

I have been working at resting on Fridays. I work on Sundays, so this has become especially important. I want to build this so into my life that everyone comes to expect that I won’t be plugged in and will be hard to reach this one day a week. Hold me to it, my friends.

Cate has been taking a pottery class and has reminded me that I love clay. One of the mugs she crafted has become a favourite. I have a reignited desire to sit behind a pottery wheel again.

There is a long history of cancer in my family (on both sides). My Dad died of a heart attack. I know that being mindful of my health doesn’t guarantee anything, but I want to eat right, move a lot and be as healthy as I possibly can.

Dion has MS and knows that eating anti-inflammatory foods helps him feel better. I am trying hard to learn how to cook accordingly.

I want to rush less and linger more.

I long to love mercy, seek after justice and walk very humbly…in everything I do.

One step at a time.