jumbled up.

jum·ble
ˈjəmbəl/
verb
past tense: jumbled
  1. mix up in a confused or untidy way.

Hello friends,

It has been some time since I have been here in this space with you. Thanks for waiting patiently for me to be able to be here again. I think the only way to sum up the rest of the summer is to use this word: jumble.

The beginning of August came and went with a flurry of tears, memories, and prayers as we said goodbye to two of our friends at the dale who passed away near the end of July. Nicole and John are and were deeply loved and missed. Having two funerals in one week was…something. We had very sad hearts as two friends with their own stories, lives and souls were remembered and grieved two days apart. We continue to miss them very much.

That same week, we met a very shaken friend in the hospital who then left to be with her doggy at home (as you might remember from my last post). Thank you for your prayers, as she is doing better than before, and better than we expected. She continues to find great comfort in her dog, and we are grateful for the love of her little companion.

Erinn then left on holiday, followed by Jo shortly after. I am so thankful for all that they bring to this team and how they lead fearlessly and love largely. For them to be able to have time away to rest was so good, and I am glad for them.

Being solo in Parkdale left my heart jumbled up a little though, I must admit. I think between being out of routine, having my teammates missing, and living as well as working in Parkdale left me feeling funny. I dreamt of moving far away and working on a farm to care for cows, which seemed easier at the time than caring for people. Although I don’t know much about cows… I don’t know how that would have turned out!

There were some lovely moments that happened while Erinn and Jo were away, and I am thankful for my new community that comforted me, stayed longer than usual to help me at drop-in, and played long Scrabble games with me. I think it was hard to see the good when I felt like my heart was tipping over with hopelessness at the way Parkdale can feel sometimes, especially during the long summer days, like we are all stuck in an alternate universe.

It made me miss my friends at Sanctuary, who I had deeper relationships with. It made me miss familiarity, and space working away from home. It made me miss stability and comfort. I was reminded by Ian as I sat in tears on the couch that there was a reason I was called to be in Parkdale. The anxiety that fills my mind sometimes may be telling me to run far away. But there was a call in my heart, a spark, that knew I needed to be here doing this work.

I am so happy to have my girls back with me, and happy that we can be honest with each other when we feel not quite right. I am glad for rest, and also for work. I am filled with hope when we laugh, overcome a challenge, see growth in someone, and see healing right before our eyes. The days continue to be weird around here, sometimes bright and sunny, and sometimes filled with deep despair. Ian and I lost another friend from the Gateway. Our buddy Tom has passed away, and I miss his raspy-ness, his generosity, and the way he could be brutally honest and make me laugh in the same sentence.  He had his own struggles, as we all do, and I pray that he is filled with peace. He is missed dearly and loved deeply.

I, for one, am glad that the summer is finally over. It wasn’t the best, although it had it’s good moments. I am still happily engaged and trucking on with planning a wedding. I am still here in Parkdale even though I wanted to run and never come back. However, it still feels like death is waiting to greet us at every corner as we say goodbye again and again to our friends. Pray for us as we walk through Autumn, that we may have fresh crisp air that fills our lungs, and a new start. Thank you for your encouragement through this season. I feel like I am jumping from unsteady stone to unsteady stone. Thanks for being the hands alongside me to catch me when I feel that I may fall.

Peace to you as the seasons change! May you be filled with that magic that only the Fall brings!

 

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baking a cake.

If anyone reading this knows me well enough, you know that I am not great in the kitchen. I prefer to work around the chef (as a sous-chef, if you will) cleaning up and putting things away, giving the pot a quick stir, setting timers and all the other stuff that doesn’t actually include cooking the food. This not only goes for cooking meals, but for baking as well. Some people are good at one or the other, few are great at both, and I am mediocre at best. I feel like if we were to go ahead and think of my life in this analogy (which you know I am about to do…), I could say almost the same things.

Last weekend, I feel like I baked a metaphorical life cake. Please try to follow along… I feel almost as if I’m thinking this through as I write which I often do, and I’m sure it will begin to make sense soon.

The bottom layer of the cake came about as follows:

I got a phone call early Saturday morning from a woman in our community who is in a crisis of sorts, flip-flopping between life at the hospital and life with her dog who she can’t live without. She was meant to be at the hospital but was thinking of leaving to be with her dog. Erinn had left for holiday, Jo was out of town, and I was in Vaughan. Close, but not close enough. I left where I was almost right away, trying to call my friend back a couple of times with no luck. By the time I got home, got a few things I needed to give to her, and made my way to the hospital in Caribana traffic, it was too late. She was gone. The circumstances under which she had left the hospital were infuriating. After saying my piece in a not so graceful way, I had no choice but to leave. My boyfriend was with me due to the circumstances of the situation and it felt kind of normal – this life which we have both chosen to live can be like this. We ran all over God’s Parkdalian acres and looked for our friend, hoping and praying that she was safe. 

The top layer of the cake looks like this:

After spending hours at the hospital, around town in Ubers, at her building and in many other spots in Parkdale, our friend was nowhere to be found. The rest of the day was spent, for me, trying to let this go. For my boyfriend, the wheels in his head were spinning, trying to tie the final knot in a series of conversations we had been having for some time. At around 8pm that Saturday night, I came home from a walk and was greeted to string lights on my ceiling and pictures of the places that mean to much to Ian and I. I looked at them with tears in my eyes as he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. This moment was filled with joy, excitement, and hope. A deep contrast from our morning together.

I realized that on this day, we had made a cake. After so long of shying away from chef-like responsibilities in my new community, it was time to put on my bakers hat. I was the only one of my co-workers here and my friend needed a friend. Although she could not be found, I walked head first into corners of Parkdale and spoke with authority. I had to take the reins. It was terrifying, and I was thankful for someone like Ian to be by my side. We built the layers together, walking alongside each other in Parkdale on a mission as we often do in this line of work. And in the evening we took next steps in building our life together. I traded a confident working lady hat for another hat, one that will involve needing to step up and be a wife. Lord knows that these are big responsibilities.

I hope this came together in a way that makes sense, but I’m learning that it’s okay if it didn’t. That day in our life was jumbled and still doesn’t make much sense. Growing up is scary and making tough decisions, being confident in your heart, and stepping up to love people is going to be terrifying and often won’t be clear. I wonder why people make the decisions that they do. Why do they leave the hospital when they need care? Why does the love of a dog come before the love of oneself? Why would someone choose to love me and my messiness? Because life is like baking a cake. The layers are important and create depth. The toppings bring and hold everything together. And often the kitchen looks messy, as will your life… in the end you can only hope to have something good.

let it be.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
“Let it be”


We sing this song often at the Dale at many of our regular weekly gatherings. Usually it means nothing more to me than a Beatles song that I somehow know the words to. However this week, it has been more of a source of comfort. 

There have been an increasing number of deaths in our community these past few months, most recently in the last two weeks. Finding myself still slowing walking into the community from the outside, I feel at odds with my emotions. Wanting to give space to our friends to grieve, I say little. But having connected with people more and more often, and losing them before deeper friendships can be made, is sad. 

Compared to many colleagues that I have worked with, past and present, I have been in this line of work for what feels like a blink in time. Still during that time, many of my friends in community have passed on, all in differently heartbreaking ways. Having just passed my three month anniversary at the Dale, I find myself wondering how to do this work “well” for a long time, and how many of my co-workers have done that before me. There is no easy answer. Grief is hard to navigate. 

As a collective group of people that work so closely in community, I feel like there is a common sort of sadness when we agree that when one of our friends passes on, it is not just them that leaves us. It is all our friends who have passed on before them leaving us again and again. We remember each with the loss of another, and that is a sad thing in and of itself. How do we remember each one well so that their life can carry on? There is no easy answer. Trying to remember so many friends who have left us is a heavy thing.

I have also found myself contemplating how much longer I can live and work in Parkdale when the relationships that we value building with our community run so deep. I cannot walk but five minutes to the market without running into a handful of community members, some in a good space and some not. I cannot walk but a few steps along my street before seeing the place where a friend recently left this world. In a neighbourhood that is already small, it is becoming more complicated to be so deeply rooted in Parkdale than I thought or hoped it would be. How do I live and work here and be well? There is no easy answer. Wanting to be so close, yet so far away is confusing. 

All of the deaths of my friends have been the result of injustice. Homelessness, addictions, mental health stuff… the list is long and the system that we (try to) function in in our society is failing my friends. They are dying at the hands of violence, of sadness, of a lack of things that they need, of many things that could be prevented if we sought to serve people better. I have been reminded that through rough times, the work that we do is still good. It remains good when it feels bad. However, when times are heavy, I find myself questioning if this work is worth it. Is it worth it to keep pushing against a system that fails my friends daily? Are we doing enough, advocating enough, for things to be better? There is no easy answer. Wondering how to serve people better and well takes time, and in that time, people are still dying. 

Sometimes I wish I was older, that I had worked longer, that I knew more than I know now. I wish my connections with people ran deeper and longer, so that I could soak up their goodness before their time with us ran up. I wish people weren’t sad, and that they knew that they were loved deeply. I wish people weren’t in so much pain when I walk through my neighbourhood and see people living in their brokenness. I wish this work was easy.

But the reality is that this work is not easy. There will always be many questions and times of second guessing. There also are and will continue to be good things – when agencies come together to bring justice, when small steps to good things happen, when people are freed from their struggles, when we sing together and smile. 

We ask for your prayer as this season continues to be heavy. We ask for wisdom and peace, and that the hands of God be ours as we serve our friends. And we ask for patience as we push though hard questions that have no easy answers. 

And when the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be.

 

balance.

On Tuesday we went to the lake. We almost didn’t make it.

As is the usual pattern for Tuesday’s at the Dale, (I am slowly learning) the weather is uncertain and indecisive at best. We had planned for weeks to go to the lake on Tuesday to celebrate the beginning of summer. We would have hot dogs and chips, and have a picnic on the benches. Foolish, knowing how Mother Nature feels about Tuesday’s? Maybe. But we like to hope for the best. On the day in question, the clouds came and went, as did the rain. It was on and off for so long in the morning that we had decided to surrender to the weather and postpone our picnic and meet at our usual indoor spot.

Our friends had other plans. Once word got out that we had waived the flag of defeat, we were coaxed by our friends into hope and belief that the storm would hold. And that it did. With last minute pizza in hand, we went to the lake with community in tow and sat together. We ate pizza from the box, and salad and fruit that was generously brought by our friends. We laughed together, discussed the ever flooding lake, watched the rowers go by, and took silly pictures together.

Earlier that day as a team we visited a friend in the hospital. I stepped back and watched as Erinn and Jo touched the hand of our friend and prayed for her. It was sad. I felt sad. I thought of many of my other friends who had become ill. Some still here, and some gone to be with their maker. This work is hard. We value being in community with one another, and not just on good days. On days when we feel hurt, helpless, hopeless, angry, sad, broken. On those days we are still together.

That Tuesday was bitter sweet. We saw brokenness – our strong, resilient friend in the hospital, the only thing to be done was to touch her hand and pray. But we saw hope that day too. Hope for clouds to clear and the sun to come out. Hope in community and how it encourages and brings joy when we feel like we walk in defeat. We saw laughter and sweet moments of friendship.

Erinn, Jo, and I put our arms around each other and looked at our friends around the table, laughing together. This is our crew, and we are glad. On days that this feels sad and hard and hopeless, let us look to each other and to the One that brought us together for joy, hope, and healing.

On Tuesday we went to the lake. With stumbling steps and a grace that is ever true, we made it.

to pray.

Oh…to be a “prayer warrior.” I hear about these types of people all the time. These people with prayer lists and journals, who can start and end a prayer with such grace, who speak confidently and with conviction.

I will be the first to admit that I am not one of these people. I will even go so far as to say that I am really bad at praying (maybe part of my perfectionistic nature gives me reason to even think there is such a thing as to be “bad” at praying, but I digress). I can never sit still long enough to be quiet and listen to someone pray, I have a hard time keeping my eyes closed for so long and being in my own darkness, and I have a hundred things running through my mind at any point in time that listening to a prayer from start to finish seems impossible. I’ve always wondered if there was some secret formula to praying that I was missing. How do I balance my helps, thanks, and wows (as is the title of a book by Anne Lamott that I got to help me out and still have not read)? Am I asking for too much? Am I asking God for things in the “right” way?

I remember praying with Erinn and Joanna on one of my first days at The Dale. We sat beside each other on a Monday morning, about to finish our check-in and head over to our Monday community meal. Erinn asked if we could pray (we?!). My mind started to race and I’m sure my palms started to sweat. It got quiet. Joanna started to pray (beautifully, as she often does). It was eloquent and kind hearted, well balanced and graceful. Then, my worst thought came true. She ended in God’s name, but didn’t say Amen. I knew we would have to continue. Sure enough, Erinn started to pray and much like Joanna’s prayer, her’s was honest and sweet. She was grateful, and also unafraid to ask her Father for what we needed for the day. How would I follow up? I’m pretty sure when my turn came I prayed the shortest prayer I could, a classic prayer that I usually say in my head – one for peace and a friend, especially on my first big day.

Now that I have a couple months under my belt at The Dale, I find it safe to say that I’m still not comfortable with prayer. But I am learning. I am learning that this unsureness I’ve had about praying all my life is an insecurity I hold in my own heart. I am learning that God gifts people in many ways – that some people have prayers that can move mountains, and some are quietly strong. I am learning that there are many types of prayers – long and short, made-up, and written many years ago (side note: I went to a conference recently and attended a lesson on ancient prayers. Did it ever help me out to know that people have written prayers already that you can read for the day!). I am learning that my words don’t always have to make sense, and that this is okay even when I am praying out loud and people are listening. I am learning that it is okay to just say, “Amen” some days after Erinn and Jo pray (and I am grateful for their great examples to me of what honest, brave, and grateful prayer is).

I am practicing talking to God. I am practicing praying out loud, even when I am nervous to speak in front of others. I am practicing being thankful to Him for answering our prayers, and I am in awe that He always does in His own way. And I am practicing being less insecure about praying – with my colleges and friends at work who I trust, with my community who I care for and who care for me, with my boyfriend at the dinner table, and with myself whenever I feel like I need to talk to God on my own. These things take time, and I am grateful that God is still there listening to me fumble day after day.

“O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console:
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to
eternal life. Amen”

– attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi

storm.

I have a new friend. I’ll call him Storm.

From what I know of Storm so far, he reminds me of a walking tornado (hence the name). He will usually join us at our Monday lunch gatherings, showing up early to help set up. He sets up the tables very quickly, which often means that he takes a long time to set up chairs because he likes to colour coordinate them. He makes up for this delay by haphazardly placing cutlery at each place by the plates that I’ve carefully centred by each chair, and napkin I’ve delicately folded. Cups are placed on one side of the plate and then another depending on the table. A tornado of an arrangement.

As disorganized as this may seem, and as painstaking as it is for a control freak like me, I’ve come to really enjoy our morning routine, as I have gotten to know Storm during this time and can work on seeing The Good. When I first met Storm and we started this routine, it took all of me not to fix every single thing he did. Not to straighten out the place settings or put the cups on the same side.

But to know Storm is to know that he is calm in the midst of his chaos. That he makes the coffee really early so that it is fully brewed and ready for when people will want it (although he might yell at you if you try to touch it too early). That he warms the muffins that we get donated because he knows they taste better this way. That he will offer to fill your plate with food before his own, and will offer everyone around our table this same gift. That I feel the need to sit next to him during announcements so that his constant noise doesn’t disturb others, but that he sits quiet during the prayer. That he likes lots of sugar in his coffee, and will remember how you like yours. That he invites me outside to chat, and although he talks in circles and sometimes I have no idea what he means, he asks me to keep him company and hopes that he can be company for me as well. The Good.

I often think that to the world, we are like Storm. We are rowdy, loud, and quick to move. People judge us by our outbursts and by the fact that we can’t sit still. That we get angry and yell and break things. That we are too “much”. I think we are all like Storm to God as well, but He sees The Good. The good intentions and joyful offering to help. The pain that comes out in the circles we talk through. The giving and graceful. The kind and helpful. He sees the calm in our chaos and for that I am grateful because I know for sure that some days I am a walking tornado as well.

I am grateful for my new friend Storm and all that he offers to our community, and for all that he teaches me about patience. For his peace and his chaos.

And I am grateful for a God that sees The Good in me too.

a letter.

 

A beginning note: I tried about 5,000 times to write this blog (that is a slight exaggeration). I wrote and erased it so many times in fear that some of this post might sound too negative to people that are waiting to hear how I’m doing. So as I was writing and trying to shape what I was going to say, I ended up writing a letter to myself. It sums up how I’m feeling and what I want myself to remember. It can be scary for me to do this. It is scary for me to do this. I’m not sure yet about how I feel about baring my soul and brain to people, but here we are. So thanks friends, for letting me be honest here. Peace to you…


Dear me,

I know you want people to think you’re fine, so you lie when they ask how your new job is going so they don’t worry (because soon you will feel fine, it’s just a lot of change right now).

I know it feels like someone has kidnapped you from Sanctuary, blindfolded you, spun you around, and released you in Parkdale into the careful hands of Erinn and Joanna. You feel disoriented and confused, like you recognize where you are and what you are doing, but you didn’t know any of the faces or names. I know you cried many times when you said you were just going to the washroom, and held back tears as you set up tables and chairs for lunch. You used to know where the tables went and who sat in each seat. I’m sorry you feel guilty that you couldn’t help mend any broken hearts or quiet harsh words from community – you don’t know yet how to connect with people here (but you will learn). Big rooms feel overwhelming to you… it’s okay to sit with one person to chop vegetables and let them talk when they want to because you don’t know what to say. Soon you will know what to say.

I need to remind you that being in community with people will take a lot from you. It takes grace, selflessness, forgiveness, an open heart, and lots of time and space. It’s okay to feel vulnerable. Everyone is new and different. You don’t know where people sit yet, and how long they’ve been around. You don’t know their sorrows and joys, or how they interact with their community. It takes time to know people, and it will take them time to know you as well. This is part of the journey.

I know it’s hard for you to sit and be. Try. When you sit next to someone in drop-in, don’t look for dirty dishes that need cleaning or things that need putting away. Give it a couple minutes, even if you sit quietly next to someone and read the paper. It’s okay to be with people quietly. You can get to know people in this way as well.

There are good times ahead. I know you see it, kid. When someone remembers your name. When people sit across from you and tell you painful things even though they don’t know you, because they sense that they can trust you (be grateful for that). When you celebrate birthdays with community, and laugh with your new team as you guys carry the heaviest of appliances up tiny stairs. When you look around the room and smile. When you leave Erinn and Joanna and feel like your heart is in good hands. Things are good. They will be good.

God has placed you here right now and some days it will feel confusing. You will wonder if He really knew what He was doing. He knew. You have to trust that this is worth it (because it is).

Keep praying for peace and a friend. The Lord hears your prayer.

Love,

myself.

 

vulnerability.

These past few weeks have felt especially full of weight.

For the longest time, I thought I was the type of person that adapted well to new things, people and situations. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I thought for sure that situation would have made me the most adaptable person there could be. However, as I get older and try to get to know myself more, I find that change does not do well for me. A change in plans, a change in the weather, a change in a job… I think – I know – that this is because I like to be in control. But I am also discovering that this cannot always be the case. Shocking, I know.

The most recent adjustment in my life is this transition in employment, from my job at Sanctuary to my new job at The Dale. I knew it was coming, and I actively participated in bringing about this change. However that does not stop me from feeling the weight of it. Sometimes the weight feels light and happy. When my friends surprise me with farewell cake and treats, cards that they’ve made and pictures they’ve painted. When people hug me and tell me that I will be missed and give me good wishes for the future. When they ask me to visit and make sure that we see each other again (which we will!).

But mostly, I’ve felt heavy. I think when I feel heavy about one thing, many things start to feel heavy for me. All the combined weights make me feel sad, the tears willing to fall even after seeing a simple commercial on tv. They make me feel unstable, more susceptible to sudden changes in my mood. They make me feel sleepy too, like gravity is pulling me down harder during the day.

The reason for my ramblings about all of this, is that my weights have got me thinking about vulnerability. Past Meagan would have tried (and still does, actually) to hide my sad parts away, tell people that I’m fine and hope that eventually I will feel light again. But I know now that you can’t feel light again without removing some of the weight and putting it down, and doing that means being vulnerable. It means telling people that you love, and who love you, what hurts and trusting that they’ll be there to take some things from you. I don’t know if this can always be done… sometimes you have to be with your sadness, and learn to be friends with it. Learn to acknowledge it and let it leave when it’s ready. But sometimes, you can give some of it to others to hold because they know how to put it down differently than you, or you can let it go when you open the curtains and windows and let fresh air in, or when you cry at the silly commercial on tv.

I have been listening to this band called Joseph lately, and they have a song called “Honest.” It goes, “There’s always two thoughts – one after the other: I’m alone. No you’re not.” I’m here to tell you (and myself) that it’s okay to feel the weight of your feelings, both the heavy and light ones. And it’s okay to let other people in to help you carry your weights. If they love you, they’ll want to be there for you. I promise. It might feel like you’re alone… no, you’re not.

-m.

welcome!

Hello, friends! Welcome to my blog, where I will be posting regularly about my new job/life at The Dale. I guess this is where my inner ramblings will come to live. Thanks for being here with me and joining me in the conversations we will have here. I’m looking forward to sharing myself with you all…