The Valley of Vision

Right now a long-time friend from Parkdale lays in an ICU, his fate uncertain. Joanna and I went to see him yesterday. Though we don’t know if he was aware of us, we spoke to him, touched his head and arms and prayed.

We also went to visit someone who’s little apartment had become disastrous. Without the freedom of mobility, it is becoming near impossible for our friend to manage the space. We cleaned up what we could, feeling limited in our capacity to help as much as we’d like.

There is a story in the Toronto Star today about a man who was found murdered in the downtown core. We knew him. Knowing how deeply impacted our friends at Sanctuary are by this loss, we decided to head there after our morning drop-in. The grief is raw and heavy.

I find myself thinking of a poem I believe was written by the Puritans around the time of World War 1. I don’t always understand or like the paradox this piece of writing describes, but I believe it to be true. As I linger in the valley I discover that blessing is indeed housed here, the kind that Jesus describes in His Sermon on the Mount where he begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

The Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
You have brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see you in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold your glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter your stars shine;

Let me find your light in my darkness,
your life in my death,
your joy in my sorrow,
your grace in my sin,
your riches in my poverty,
your glory in my valley.

The Day the Fridge Died

Cate went to get a popsicle as an after-school snack and discovered pools of former frozen treats. Not a good sign. The freezer was blowing warm air, though things in the fridge still seemed cool. We decided to hope that it would be an easy fix.

I wasn’t around when the repair-person showed up, but this is what was recounted to me: he charged $100 to show up, pull out the fridge and diagnose it as unfixable, though if we left it unplugged for a few hours maybe it would “reboot”. I wasn’t optimistic (which is unusual for me), but agreed to try.

In the meantime I had to get rid of all our food. We managed to save some meat by giving it to a neighbour earlier, but otherwise things had already gone bad. Relative to the time our chest freezer died this cleanup was manageable, though it still wasn’t fun. I will confess that I became irritable in the process, frustrated with the overflowing compost bin and the amount of work it took to make the kitchen smell good again.

That “reboot” option? It didn’t work. We have purchased a new fridge that isn’t being delivered until tomorrow. Our old fridge died last Wednesday. That’s over a week to be regularly reminded of how I take having a working fridge for granted. Fortunately a friend loaned us the use of a tiny bar fridge the other day, so we have a bit of milk, some fruit and a place to stash our take-out leftovers.

I keep silently promising myself that I will learn to really appreciate the new fridge. I know so many people who can only dream about having one, or who might even have one, but are without the means to fill it with food. I realize that being able to cook for my family is a large part of home making for me. The creation of “home” happens in a variety of ways, not least of which is around a table full of food. I don’t want to forget this.





Inspired to Choose Gratitude

One of the things that I am consistently blown away by is the capacity of some of my most marginalized friends to find little bits of gratitude in their lives. One such friend emphatically thanked God for the bit of decorative paper she found on the street to adorn a lamp. Another declared how grateful he was to have enough change to buy a present for a family member, even though he really needed a bar of soap.

I’ve written a fair amount about the various struggles I am a part of lately: Dion’s health and the numerous deaths at The Dale to name two. I am inspired by my Dale friends to really look beyond whatever challenges I might experience and discover beauty, in even the smallest of places. The following is far from an exhaustive list. As I began to contemplate what I am grateful for I realized that I could go on and on. Here’s my start:

  1. The hat that we use as an offering plate on Sundays at The Dale. We pass it so that people can even just touch it in acknowledgement of whatever they have to give, money or otherwise.
  2. Being able to watch so many interesting, talented, considerate kids in my neighbourhood grow into interesting, talented, considerate young adults.
  3. The buds on trees.
  4. The fact that Cate likes to listen to vinyl records in her room.
  5. Hugs. Period.
  6. Family.
  7. Dion finally getting an appointment with one of his MS doctors for important follow-up.
  8. For the way dancing in The Dale kitchen never gets old, especially to Ben E King’s Stand By Me.
  9. Having friends who are like family that we share dinner with every Wednesday night.
  10. The chance to talk with my Mom.
  11. Still having meals in our freezer that our community made when Dion was in hospital.
  12. The way my coffee maker sounds in the morning.
  13. Mail that isn’t bills.
  14. Friends who listen and who let me listen to them.
  15. That Joanna and I are welcome to sit for hours at the same coffee shop every Tuesday for our staff meeting.
  16. Second Harvest.
  17. That I get to be an Auntie.
  18. For the way The Dale is a community run by the community.

“Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.” Henri Nouwen