My daughter Cate is growing up.
I know this is what happens. Lately though I find myself standing back and watching her with a mixture of amazement and wistfulness at how quickly she seems to be morphing into a young lady. Occasionally I think about how my own mother watched me change when I was Cate’s age. Though so many years ago it doesn’t always feel that way: I can remember how it was to be almost a teenager (and admittedly sometimes still feel like one). So, how is it that my Catie-Cate is now in the same place?
I am proud of the person Cate is. I see in her an incredible capacity for compassion and understanding. She is very honest. I love that she tries her best even when something doesn’t come naturally to her. Cate feels things deeply and while sometimes struggles to articulate what is going on internally, always tries to find the words. When done with a book or a toy, Cate considers who she might give it to. I believe I would say this even if I weren’t her mother: Cate is a joy. I really love AND like her.
Dion and I have never shielded Cate from hard things. She has seen poverty, illness and even death. Until recently most of this kind of experience has occurred because of Cate’s proximity to us, now though she is discovering difficult things for herself and in the lives of her peers. Seeing this happen is turning out to be one of the most painful parts of parenting so far. Cate is like a piece of my heart walking around on two legs. I desperately want to protect and shield her from the sadness that life brings and yet know I can’t. True too is that I want to teach her the beautiful complexity of the truth that blessed are those who mourn and are poor in spirit.
Last night Cate came home from her choir rehearsal happy and thrilled that she had done well on her sight-reading test. She set her alarm this morning so that she could work on some homework first thing (we’re working at learning to not procrastinate). Today’s plan is to give a teacher the encouragement card that she and a friend made upon hearing that one might be needed. She’s devouring books these days, having fun with friends and already planning what kind of cake we’ll have for her thirteenth birthday.
Cate is both a happy kid and an old-soul. She manages an awareness of the challenges of life while still wanting to climb trees and for this I am grateful. Cate makes me a happy mama.
Occasionally we enjoy the opportunity of hosting a student at The Dale. This year we were joined by Danielle Stinson, a woman working on her Bachelor of Social Work through the University of Victoria. Danielle was required to do a placement and chose us for it, a choice we were happy she made. It is hard to believe that Danielle’s placement has already come to an end. Danielle, thank you for your presence at The Dale, for sharing your inquisitive mind, your deep compassion and obvious heart for people. We will miss you.
Critical reflection is an important part of learning, and so we decided that Danielle would write a blog about her experience that I would share here. This is a generous piece.
This has been a difficult post to sit down and write. I think I was avoiding having to actually recognize that I have to leave soon and won’t be around as often or for a while at least. But here it is!
From my first week back in January when I started at The Dale, I felt welcomed to share in my brokenness and my true self. I have a hard time fitting in with traditional church settings without causing a stir, but The Dale has been a place of refuge and comfort that has welcomed my opinion. There is a ‘genuineness’ to this place that is so attractive, beautiful, and honest. I’ve been caught off guard by the generosity and thoughtfulness of so many people in one place!
Thank you for the birthday cake and for those in the community who shared art and music on Wednesday mornings and during the rest of the week, it brings life to this place. Being a part of Tuesday night prayer was special to me and I learnt so much from those who share stories and that question and investigating scripture together. Chopping vegetables on Mondays has been deeply therapeutic and helped prepare me for the week. I’m also grateful to Erinn and Joanna for their commitment to being present and praying together for the community and for each other, it has been an honour to join you.
One of the (many) things I have learnt from this community has been the importance and freedom of interdependence. We contribute in different ways and we need each other equally. There is a kindness and a peace to this community that is marked by love for one another and a commitment to live as Christ did.
Moving is both exciting and frustrating. I’m looking forward to meeting new people but I really can’t see how it can be better than this, experiencing life together and being in community.
Praying and thinking of you lovely bunch,
“I think I need to draw a picture about why Easter makes me sad”. Though she said it quietly, I heard it clearly. I probed a little and realized that her story is grievously not unique. Easter, like Christmas, reminds those who are displaced or estranged from the ones they love, how alone they really are.
I sometimes find the Easter season particularly challenging to navigate at The Dale because of this. Lent, the period of preparation for Easter tends to be solemn and is often when people “give things up”- not uncommonly things like coffee and chocolate. But how do you suggest giving something like that up when surrounded by people just looking for their next meal? Please hear me: I am not suggesting letting something go isn’t a good idea (in the past I too have given up chocolate). When done as intended: to direct our attention back to God, it is an incredible and good tool. I’m just acknowledging that this is one of the ways it gets complicated.
God of course moves despite what bogs me down. I shouldn’t be surprised.
We gathered with two other communities on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday) to commemorate the last supper of Christ and wash one another’s feet or hands. We started the evening with a potluck that a large number of Dale folks contributed to, whether it was a huge vat of pasta or a box of Digestive Cookies from the dollar store. The evening felt set apart and holy.
On Easter Sunday we spoke of the resurrection of Jesus and what difference it makes in our lives. So many people shared of their gratitude to simply be alive. We talked about looking up at the sky and being struck by how BIG it is. People challenged one another to see the gifts that God has put in their lives, even when by the world’s standards those gifts seem meagre. I shared my sorrow over certain situations in my life and how while I’d love for them to be different, I also recognize God being present in them. We spoke and sang about the hope that we now have because of Easter.
We are slowly and carefully being transformed. One of us used to refuse even shaking another’s hand during our weekly ‘passing of the peace’, today hugs are given. One of us used to spend every day alone in a small rooming house apartment, today every moment possible is spent with a community. One of us continues to struggle with paranoia but considers it safe with The Dale. One of us drew a picture of Easter with such sadness, but is replacing it with a picture of hope. We are being reawakened to the resurrection.