Growth Through the Cracks.

This morning, I was standing near the front of the line where we hand out our breakfast to-go every Thursday. Most of our friends had come and gone, receiving a meal and a small chat. Thursday mornings tend to be slow and sleepy, not as hectic as our Monday lunch. I was enjoying the cool breeze and waiting for any last minute folks to show up for the last couple meals we had left. I looked down and saw this grass growing out of a crack in the sidewalk and it struck me as beautiful. I did what I always do in that case and took a picture! It’s been on my mind all day, and I was trying to think of a blog to go alongside such a beautiful site to show all of you.

Sometimes, for me, the pressure to blog feels heavy. I would say most of the time it does not, and I can think of a story that stays with me and try to attach some thought to it that’s been on my mind. I get to share our beautiful life at The Dale with all of you and reflect on some thing that has happened. I love this part of my job.

But sometimes, the words just don’t come. That’s not to say that good things aren’t happening, because they are. And it’s not to say that I don’t have anything to share, because I do. But life has been heavier recently. The warm summer days are slowly fading, encampments in the area are being cleared, worry for our friends who sleep outside is higher as the nights get colder, Covid is still around so we remain outdoors, and people are tired. Community is beautiful, but sometimes there is a lot to worry about at once. Not to mention personal life things that can be heavy as well.

So while I reflected on this beautiful sight and tried to think of something hopeful, I could not. There is hope there, but there is heaviness too for many people. And it’s okay to feel both. I look at this picture and I see grass growing dutifully out of an odd place. I see hope and possibility. But I also see a brown leaf next to it. A sign of change, colder days, and hard times. Am I looking too deeply into some grass on the floor… probably! But it’s what I do. Thanks for being here when there are bold stories and reflective lessons. And thanks for being here for pictures of grass in the sidewalk and not much to say. I appreciate you.

One thing I may ask of you is for prayer over my friends Erinn, Dion, and Cate. If you’ve been here before you will recognize Erinn’s name. She is our pastor and director here at The Dale. You can find her blog here about the heaviness going on for their family right now. Erinn’s faith reminds me of this grass through the cracks – always looking towards the light. But there is heaviness now too and much change. I urge you to pray for The Oxford’s with us.

May peace find you today.

Meg

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Parkdale. In order to do this ministry I must fundraise for my salary. I invite you to partner with me prayerfully or financially! Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com to talk more about what this looks like!

When Life Hands You Bird Crap.

Last week we were doing outreach, as we usually do midweek. You can often find us walking or driving along Queen Street through Parkdale checking in with our friends outside. We bring water, snacks, toiletries, or sometimes just ourselves and look forward to connecting with folks in a setting outside the bounds of our drop-in or to-go meals. Last week was a week not that different from usual. We set off with stuff in hand and walked through the heat. We were nearing our last check-in spot on our usual route when the unfortunate happened.

I was standing outside a convenience store talking to our friend Robert when I felt and heard a splatter on my head and arm and the sidewalk beside me. It was not raining, so I knew instantly what the culprit was… a bird had relieved itself above me in such a way that I got the leftover splat from it’s bottom. It was green and wet and landed mostly on the sidewalk but also on me.

I was in shock. I just held my arm out and patted my head and looked at the floor as people came to my rescue. Jo and Olivia started checking me all over to see the damage. A stranger walked by and saw the events, handing me a napkin and assuring me of it’s cleanliness. Our friend Robert starting searching through his bag for another napkin. Olivia and Joanna took them and starting cleaning me off where the poo had reached me. Everyone assured me how lucky I was (if we were standing in a country where bird shart can be seen as lucky).All I could do was stand there in my shock and hope the colour would soon drain from my cheeks.

As unlucky as I felt, I still found myself thinking of a silver lining. I had community. People didn’t laugh and point and say “Sucks to be you!” They came quickly with napkins and hopeful words and patting of hair. It was a simple thing, but it reminded me of the bigger picture of this life of work I am blessed to be called to do. There is hope and napkins to be had in the village you surround yourself with. I am so grateful for my friends who helped that day, and for the way we could share the story on the rest of our walk and find laughter in the midst of a hot poop filled day.

This isn’t the first time I have been handed napkins in a tough situation. And surely it will not be the last. Whether it be napkins, a prayer, a coffee, a check in, a gift of service, love, thoughts, or a walk – I am glad to have my life enriched by this Dale community. What a beautiful gift.

With peace in days that may have a little extra poop. I hope you get handed a napkin drenched in love.


I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Parkdale. In order to do this ministry I must fundraise for my salary. I invite you to partner with me prayerfully or financially! Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com to talk more about what this looks like!

Like a Sunflower.

The sunflower is my favourite flower of all time. I am wooed by the way they stand up tall and grow wide and big. They shine bright for all to see and add colour to the world. Everywhere I go I look for them, and smile when I find one. Last summer my mom gave me sunflower seeds to add to my garden. Not having the capacity to plant them with a young baby in a Pandemic, I left them be.

This year when getting my garden ready in the Spring, I found the box of seeds and decided to try to plant them even though I definitely had not stored them properly. My expectations were low, but I carefully and diligently planted them and monitored them. Slowly they grew and I moved them from a container into the earth. Out of a handful planted, only a few survived and I tended those four in my backyard, hoping for the best.

I’ll tell you what happened… they grew. Slowly but surely those sunflowers grew taller still, reaching up toward the sun. Since early Spring for what feels like forever I have watched and watered day by day, tending to their needs. But the mind is a funny thing. Even though I planted those seeds and watched them grow slowly I am comparing them to many others I see in my neighbourhood. They are in the sun, they are fertilized, they are watered… but they are slow to bloom. And I wonder what is wrong with my efforts.

But that’s the thing, right? Everyone and everything grows at it’s own pace. My sunflowers may not be as tall or as bright just yet but I have kept them alive. They are finally starting to bloom and I know in the heat a bright flower will soon emerge. They have taken their time, and I have gotten the chance to watch them all Summer long. What a beautiful gift.

My journey at The Dale is Like a Sunflower. I was planted from seed in perfect conditions, called by God into Parkdale to do this work. I was meant to grow here. I have been tended to and cared for by my team, our board, and my community. I have been slow to grow, I think, taking my time to learn each person, our routine, and my place here. But slowly and surely my beauty (which was there from the start) has emerged more and I am confident here now and in my place. I know I am growing because I can feel it, and I am proud to have watched my journey from the start. I have been fertilized by encouragements, experiences, and motherhood which has made me stronger. I am an emerging flower. It feels so sweet.

My place at The Dale is such a gift to me and I love being here so much. I love growing here and am so glad I was planted by God in Parkdale. Yesterday, I posted this on Facebook but I thought I would share it here again incase it was missed:

“If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I have worked at The Dale Ministries for four years now. Around this corner of my Facebook world I can often be known to share my blogs which I use to share stories from my community and ministry. They have been shared by many of you, and read far and wide. Together we journey along at The Dale, each member bringing a gift. Whether you pray for me, read those blogs I write, share them with a friend, or think of me in my work – you bless this ministry abundantly. I know reading my blogs has caused many of you to get to know my work at The Dale as I share about our lives together in Parkdale. Recently, I have had the opportunity to increase my time spent working at The Dale. I have been able to increase my hours to 22/week (and my pay) to be able to provide for my family. Here at The Dale, we fundraise every cent we have. That also includes our salary! Many of you have come alongside me in my work and have given financially to this ministry in Parkdale. I know it is because you see that God is calling us together in community. I am grateful for that.With increased time at The Dale, it means increased fundraising efforts. I am here humbly now, asking for you to join my community of supporters. If you are financially able to walk alongside me in my work I invite you to reach out to me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. I would love to have a conversation about what it would mean to partner with me. Most practically, this would look like a monthly contribution in order for my income to be stable over a longer period of time. I need to raise about $630/month in order to continue my increased time at The Dale every week! Simply, that would look like a large handful of people donating $20/month.There are many other ways you can support my work. By partnering with me in prayer over my work and family, by continuing to read my blogs, and by asking to receive my seasonal newsletter in which I keep my family of supporters more up to date on what life at The Dale as looked like for the past number of months.”

Thank you for reading these blogs and walking with me here at The Dale. Thank you for tending to my spirit and watching me grow. I think I am blooming in part because of YOU. I am grateful.

With much peace as we grow together,

Meg.

To Speak Boldly.

I wrote a blog a couple of years ago now titled, “to pray.” You can find it here! It was June 2017, just two months after I had started at The Dale. In it I described how I don’t feel adequate when I pray out loud, and was often insecure in doing so in fear of saying the wrong thing or not asking something in the right way (whatever that may look like). However I concluded in writing that prayers can sound so different, can evolve and they can be varying in shape, size, and length. God hears us in our words and in our silence.

I still believe that this is true – that God hears us no matter what our prayers sound like. In words and in tears we can find Him next to us listening. And if we stop to listen in return, we can find some wisdom or direction from His Spirit. What I am also learning as I walked deeper into my work at The Dale, is that God can call us to do all sorts of things that we think we are incapable of. That can be anything from my work here that I truly feel I was called to do (and was the first time I heard God’s voice so clearly). To finding our voice in prayer and in speech.

Recently, Joanna and I went to visit a community member. We see him pretty often at his home as his decreased mobility makes it hard to get out to the store for groceries. This time around, he just needed some encouragement. Finding himself lonely, down on himself, and struggling he asked that we pray together. A couple of years ago, this would have really scared me to do! I would have found myself nervous, waiting until the last minute to pray – if at all. I didn’t think my voice could or should be added to the praying session. However since coming back from maternity leave especially, I have come across some boldness from within. I was not anxious to pray, and instead I found myself speaking boldly and confidently, praying over our friend with honesty, hope, and gladness.

He thanked me for my prayer after we had finished, and said that it was really helpful. I quietly thanked him, and Jo and I went on our way chatting and giggling about something else. That night as I ran on my route, I got a text from Erinn: “I spoke with P on the phone after you went for your visit. He felt you were “very strong in the spirit” today :)”. I stopped running, not surprised by her message after hearing something similar from our friend earlier, but confused. Me? Strong in the spirit? After praying? Out loud? Huh?

It got me thinking, maybe I can be bold. Maybe I can find the words. Maybe prayer has been coming easier. Maybe affirmation from friends is the very thing you need to make a realization about God’s mercy in calling the meek to speak in boldness. These are things I did not think I would find within myself. But God thinks bigger than we ever could. His Grace covers all things – my meekness and my bold tongue. He calls us out AND gives us what we need. What a great gift.

God has called me to do something else. Every year in August Erinn leaves for the month to take a much needed holiday. We miss her soooo dearly. Her presence is a huge part of all of us. And we celebrate gladly that she can rest during this time. While she is away, Joanna usually leads church service. Erinn has always made the habit of inviting me to participate in any way I feel that I have the capacity to do. This usually means I do not participate (in the way of speaking, I mean)! If I didn’t think I could pray in front of people, how could I do the teaching time also? No way!

This August, God has taken my no way and quietly whispered, “try.” I said, “Are you sure about this?” And He said, “Yes.” And so on August 22nd I will be leading the teaching time during our small outdoor church gathering. I have feelings about it – they are still mixed up! I would appreciate your prayer as I prepare for this biiiiig step.

I am grateful for a God that knows. That walks alongside and listens. Whether they are tears or bold words, I am heard and I am beloved. I am called… and I am trying to answer. Only by His strength.

Peace to you this week.

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Toronto! In order to continue doing this work I must fundraise my salary. If you would like to come alongside me financially and partner with me in supporting my work here at The Dale please leave me an email at meagan.gillard@gmail.com.

Charlotte Meets The Dale!

As many of you know here at The Dale we refer to ourselves as a church without walls as we do not have a building of our own, and often partner with other buildings and organizations for space for our programming. However, lately on Sundays we have LITERALLY become a church without walls. Since the health restrictions have started to lift we have been able to gather outside for church in the parking lot of our space here at 201 Cowan Ave. We use a large green roofed tent for shade. Each Sunday we take it out of it’s shed and the four of us put it up in what has become a very quick and seamless routine. We collect chairs from downstairs and carry them all out to assemble under the tent without walls which allows for a cross breeze. We space the chairs out and we set up our communion in a portable cake tray that has a lid, our wicker offering basket, and sanitizer/masks. And we wait. Each week 10-15 of our friends come to worship with us, and we praise how grateful we are for the opportunity to see each other again.

Because my hours are still part time, I end up only being around for church every third week or so. Yesterday afternoon was one of those times. Ian and Charlotte have been able to come and pick me up after the service is over and it has been the greatest gifts to watch Charlotte interact with the community before we all go our separate ways. Yesterday she was happy as a clam to walk up to people, wave, smile and laugh and run around like she owned the place. Everyone was so happy to see her.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, my dreams of having Charlotte grow up at The Dale from when she was an infant were shattered. We kept her inside, sheltered from the virus and safe at home. This meant that she did not see my friends at The Dale, or even my co-workers nearly as much as I had hoped. Having her be able to come around on Sunday’s has been so special to me. Ian and I have been trying to “integrate” Charlotte into society (which is so weird to think about, and has been a journey in and of itself) and having Charlotte visit The Dale has been one thing I have been so excited about.

Yesterday as I watched her walk up to each community member and wave at them while placing her little hands on their knees as they sat, my eyes welled with tears. After a hard year of lockdowns and staying home, not gathering and being so isolated in motherhood I am grateful now for many things – vaccines to keep us safe and allow for more gathering, the love of community who cares so much for my kid who they’ve hardly met but have held faithfully in prayer, the innocence of a child who is so curious to see and meet each person even though most of her life’s interactions have been through FaceTime, and a community that allows each person to come as they are (even my sweet, curious, sometimes loud toddler!).

May this be the start of new adventures for little Charlotte!

In peace,

Meg

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I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Toronto! In order to do this work I invite others to walk alongside me in financial partnership as I fundraises for my salary. If you would like to make a monthly or one time contribution towards my salary as I continue my ministry in Parkdale, please get in touch via email at meagan.gillard@gmail.com!

A Simple Bean.

Last night as I was getting undressed before bed to put my PJ’s on, a bean fell out of my pocket. I shook my head, picked it up and was about to throw it out when I thought, “There’s a blog in here somewhere!” Why would I have a dry bean in my pocket you ask? Because we have a large community of people at The Dale who walk alongside us daily, each offering their own unique set of gifts (Well, that’s the short answer – let me explain).

Little bean with a lot of love.

A friend of The Dale dropped some dry cooking beans off to Erinn. Yesterday we brought them in and the girls began portioning out beans into little ziplock bags for members of our community who could use them to cook. I picked one up that had fallen on the floor and was in a rush to start our to-go lunch, placing the bean in my pocket rather than in the garbage. We now have a couple dozen bags of beans to hand out to community members thanks to one person’s generous gift.

The giving just continues… On our way up the stairs to start lunch, I walked around some shoes Joanna picked up last week from another friend. A bunch of basically new size 11 Adidas shoes to give to our community that one person thought to give us rather than throw away. Someone walked away with a pair already yesterday, thrilled at the prospect of new shoes.

For lunch, we give out a variety of things, often including some bread that a mystery man drops off nearly each week from his bakery. Items that didn’t sell and were destined for the garbage become our breakfast sandwich bread for 45 people and a side for the Monday meal. A generous offer of extra fresh bread and a saving of waste.

In the line for our lunch to go, we are offered smiles, art, stories, and waves. A loyal volunteer comes every Monday and Thursday to hand out food so we can be available to talk with people in line. We are trusted with joy and sadness, heartache and pain, relief and gladness. We are trusted with secrets and tears, a call for help, a thank you. We are given much from our friends. Many gifts of hope and friendship.

On Sundays we take offering at The Dale. We use a hat or a basket. We offer a prayer, and invite our community to offer their gifts. Some of those gifts come in the form of faithful tithes reaching from cheques to dimes. We’ve received notes, prayers, a hugging of the hat, an offering to do dishes, cigarettes, tokens, tears, and much more. For each gift we know that God is so glad.

The Dale would not be The Dale without the gifts of many. Our fundraiser last week raised over $11,000. It was shared over and over and over again. We were covered in prayer. And we have gifts now to give back in turn to our friends and neighbourhood who give much of themselves daily. We have new supporters and hearts attached to The Dale. We have people walking with us.

A little bean made me thankful for so much. Without everyone at The Dale offering their gifts and receiving those gifts, we would not be who we are. We learn a lot when we can not only extend a hand, but when we can take one in return. A small bean goes through a labour of love – a thought to give, being dropped off, put in a bag, given away, cooked into a meal, and shared with a friend. This is community. And we are so grateful.

May you find peace and love in small things.

Meg

Community Is Like A Garden.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my backyard garden. Now, it ain’t much. A few different fruit and veggie plants, some flowers, and a lot of weeds. Every night and sometimes during the day when Charlotte is fast asleep, I go out and walk around. I bend down and look closely at what is growing assessing each leaf and blossom, checking for growth, pruning here and there, trellising and waiting for fruit. I mean, what else would you do in the garden, right? But it’s got me to thinking – being in community is a lot like tending a garden.

A garden is comprised of many parts. You have the Ians who run to the garden store and want to fill the backyard with 100 things and try everything at once. You have the Megs who take it slow, learning each plant year by year and not pushing too fast. You have the bugs, some that eat the plants and some that help. You have water and soil which feeds and nourishes. You have the sun, bringing life to the plants. You have leaves that provide shade to the fruit. And you have your harvest, the fruit of your labour.

Last year our garden was not so big. We had a couple of tomato plants and some peppers. That’s about it! This year we have tomatoes and peppers, but we’ve added zucchini, cucumber, brussel sprouts, raspberry, strawberry, a watermelon and some flowers. Oh, and some beans! Some things I started from seed and some came started. Some things are from friends who have given me what they have grown, and some we bought. All of it is lovely, a heap of risk and trial and error – a hard thing for someone like me who holds tightly to security.

But much like the plants in my garden, and much like my community at The Dale, we are growing together. We need different parts to each bring their gifts. Some people at The Dale are artists, some business people, some without homes, and some with. Some are addicted to alcohol, and some to food. Many have heartache, all are beautiful. We each bring something special to the table, and we receive too in order to grow. Some give their time, and some their money. Some give a prayer, a smile, a washed dish, a dance, a wish, a cigarette, a token, some dimes.

We learn as we go. When I first started gardening, I let the squirrels get my harvest. This year I made some protection. I learned about fertilizer. I let Ian push us forward and take more risks. I’m experimenting with flowers. I still forget to water the grass… But my garden looks a lot different this year than last. Just like my journey at The Dale looks different too. I know who’s buttons should not be pressed. I know who likes to sing and who stays quiet. I know when to talk and when to hold back. I know what my gifts are and how to give. I have also learned how to receive what someone has to offer. We are both changing – me and my community just like me and my garden. And each year more lovely things are grown.

I have found a lot of joy being in the garden with Ian. and I have found a lot of joy being in community at The Dale. I am grateful for lovely things that grow over time, and I can appreciate trial and error, risk and reward, experimentation, giving and receiving, life and death. The garden, much like community, is teaching me many things.

I hope you too are growing something lovely.

With peace.

Meg

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Toronto. In order to do this ministry I invite others to walk alongside me prayerfully and financially. If you would like to be on my team of supporters, I invite you to reach out to me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. I would love to chat with you about The Dale!

For Chevy.

When I think of Chevy, one of the first things that comes to my mind is her laugh. It was mischievous, loud, raspy, and usually ended in a fit of coughing. She would talk as she laughed, making sure everyone around was in on the joke. She had a way of pulling people in quickly and she knew that once she had you, a piece of your heart belonged to her.

I don’t remember meeting Chevy. One of the first memories I have of her is in the hospital. She was not well, and Erinn and Joanna wanted to visit her. She was not conscious, so we laid our hands on her and just looked at her, prayed for her, and wished her back to health. Whoever was on her side must have done a lot of wishing, because although it seemed that Chevy was close to death’s door many times, it felt like she always stayed on this side with us until now. There is a hole here where she once was.

Her dog Jacob followed her around everywhere. She rescued Jacob, yet in a way he also rescued her. The two were inseparable, except when she was in the hospital which is why she never stayed very long. Whether we were at drop-in, in court with her, at her apartment… Jacob was always there usually under her feet. She would step on his tail or his foot and get frustrated at him but then he was up in her arms embraced in a hug. Jacob is little but fierce. One time Chevy had to stay in the hospital for an extended time, so me Erinn and Jo got the keys to Chevy’s place and took turns going to feed Jacob. I hated that job… every time we were there he barked and barked and tried to bite our ankles. It seemed like he never got used to us being there. But he loved Chevy so much… I am grateful that he was with her at the end of her life.

As soon as Chevy knew that I was pregnant, she got right to bugging me. She would often poke at my sides and tickle me, causing me to jump which would make her laugh that laugh we loved. When she found out that we were having a girl and would be naming her Charlotte, she nicknamed the baby Chucky which I hated. Even to the last time I saw her, she would ask me how her baby Chucky was doing and I showed her a picture. I so wish they got to meet. Her eyes filled with tears when she saw Charlotte. I know she would have adored her… I will always cherish the blanket that she hand made for Charlotte even when she was living outside in a tent. She worked on it and kept it in her bag to give to me for her Chucky.

I have so many thoughts of Chevy running through my head. The day Ian and I got engaged we had gone to visit her in the hospital only to learn that she had escaped and we went on a wild chase for her through the neighbourhood during Caribana. No we didn’t find her. The endless calls and saying hey over and over on speaker. She would always ask for junk food. “Hey bring me some skittles! I need Doritos! Can you bring bacon?” Making her cups of tea during morning art group. Visiting her in her place, pictures littering her walls. Multiple trips to court, escorting her and Jacob and watching her laugh happily when the support room gave her more granola bars than they were probably supposed to. Jacob would always be on guard at her feet under the bench. Her riding shotgun whenever we had to ride in Erinn’s van somewhere. The only way we could get her to an appointment was with the promise of a ride and some kind of donut. She never wanted to wear her seatbelt so the van would beep and beep until it got tired and gave up. Grief has a funny way of making you remember everything all at once…

Chevy was such a multitude of things. She was loyal, fierce, generous, hospitable, inappropriate at times and rude, direct, loving, big hearted, stubborn, and honest. She was an animal lover, an artist, a joker, and a great friend. She had a way of pulling you in and showed her love by poking fun at you, which I loved because I could relate to doing the same. We could always talk honestly with each other. We could laugh with and at each other. She loved us, and we loved her. She will be so missed.

Chevy. Our friend. I won’t be able to have a bag of skittles without saving one for you. May you rest in the peace of knowing how deeply loved you are.

Chevy and Jacob.

Fancy Chicken Noodle Soup.

One of the many ways we have experienced God’s provision during this pandemic has been through the generous donations of various people – individuals, businesses, foundations, and other churches just to name a few. One recent partner is a restaurant in midtown Toronto called Uncle Betty’s Diner. They have offered us multiple containers of soup a week, along with a package of bread, cutlery, and a napkin. The soup is really great (from what I have heard), homemade and delicious. This week instead of bread to go with the soup, they included some of their homemade donuts! We are so grateful for a meal that is really dignifying to give, and adds value to the community.

We have taken to handing out the soup during our Thursday afternoon outreach time which is a new addition to our routine. After handing out our to-go breakfast to the community we warm the soup up in our kitchen and re-package it. We each take a box of soups, and we walk our usual route on foot West along Queen and back. Along the way we meet our friends, new and old, and some strangers too. We offer the soup and bread and are often so blessed in return.

Today as we did our soup walk, we ran into someone we had not seen in a long time. We did not recognize him at first but he remembered us and after reacquainting he prayed over us as he weeped, having endured some hard things over the last year which he told us about. We were so glad to see our friend again and receive his blessing.

We also ran into Steve* outside the LCBO who often pan handles in that location. Today was no different except he had a huge smile on his face as he was “baby sitting” four dogs for someone while they shopped inside. I didn’t think it was possible for our friend Steve* to get any happier.

Steve* with his dog pals and soup!

On our way back to the church we stopped by a local coffee shop, Capital Espresso. They have always been so gracious to The Dale by offering their friendship as well as their muffins to include with our breakfast to the community. We eat them gladly and have had many a good chat over a Capital muffin. Today as we received a bag of muffins we were also thanked and offered coffee as a refuge from the rain even though we were already the ones receiving a gift. The hospitality in Parkdale is something I will always be so humbly glad for.

This new addition to our schedule brings me much joy. I have found myself more brave during outreach when I used to be timid. I love laughing with the girls as we walk and talk about marketing this soup as “fancy chicken noodle” because it’s so special. I love seeing people that we know and meeting new strangers – people get so excited about soup!

Thank you to Uncle Betty’s for their generous hospitality to our community. You may be closed due to COVID but your soup is travelling far and wide. I will forever think of chicken noodle soup as fancy. What a gift!

Peace to you this week. May you find joy in generosity.

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I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this work means inviting others into my journey of ministry – prayerfully and financially. If you would like to support the work that I do at The Dale, I would love to chat. Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com

A Different Kind of Letter to Myself.

I went running on Saturday evening. As the sun was setting and my baby was asleep in her room and my husband showering from his own run, I walked across the street to the open field and started. I opened my app (Couch25K in case you were wondering) and turned on my music and was guided by a lovely woman in my earbuds telling me to begin.

This app starts you out slowly, as the name of it suggests that you are likely starting from sitting on a couch (which I was). There is a slow 5 minute walk, and then 20 minutes of alternate walking and jogging, followed by another 5 minute cool down. It started off well. I was confident in my ability to at least begin. And I did. But then, as most things in life, it got harder. The longer I ran the more blood I could taste in my mouth. The more my skin started to turn red as the heat coming off me met the cool evening breeze. The more I wanted to scream at the nice lady in my ears instructing me when to walk vs. run (especially when she let me know that I was in fact only half way done even though it seemed I had been running for an hour).

But I finished. I completed the workout, ending in my backyard with a stretch. I walked back into my house and found the cup of water Ian had poured me. I flopped down in a chair and commiserated with him about how much that sucked (in kind of a good way). And I took a shower.

This is a seemingly mundane story. But I think it has a wider meaning.

I have started the journey of acknowledging that the anxiety I live with has in fact become too large for me to manage on my own. I am not sure when I will be ready to share that more broadly, but I would like to name that it helps me to make connections in my head about seemingly mundane things and how they can relate to a bigger picture. I was reminded of this today when I realized we had passed mid-April – April 17th to be exact. That was the day I started at the Dale four years ago in 2017. Every year I usually write myself a letter of encouragement to remember time passed. Last year I was obviously away on maternity leave and with a world wide pandemic and all, I just did not have it in me. This year, I forgot.

I forgot. How did that happen? Do you want to know how? Because I think my life at The Dale is a lot like running. I started off slow, brutally aware of every week passing. It was maybe easy at first to put one foot in front of the other and move but once I started really going I was taking gasping breaths wondering if I could continue on (with relationship building, fundraising, the newness of it all). The good thing was that I had someone in my ear and on my team, much like the woman in my app… however I knew them by name – Erinn and Joanna. They instructed me and encouraged me and helped me to keep moving. I had people around me doing life as they have always done it, much like the people around me on the field that night, no matter that I had inserted myself into the space. I had Ian much like I always have, cheering me on from the sidelines. And as time passed and I kept going, pushing myself mentally out of my comfort zone, it got easier. Much like I imagine running will. Soon I will be able to run for longer stretches of time, not noticing every minute that passes. I won’t be sore the day after (and the day after that) just as my growing pains of being new in a community slowly passed. I will be more easily able to trust myself to continue on and keep going, just like I learned to trust those around me when they reached out with encouragement.

So maybe I can continue the tradition on in a different kind of letter to myself even though it is late, and even though I forgot. Running can be exchanged for ________(insert hard life activity here). We all need encouragement. We all need a push. We all need someone in our ear saying “You can begin” and “You’re half way – keep moving”.

My time at the Dale is a lot like running. It gets faster, easier, and more enjoyable with each passing year. And now that four years have passed, a lot has changed. I can do hard things. My labouring breath has slowed. And I am stronger now than I was before. That brings me joy, much like this job. I was called to the Dale four years ago. I will be forever grateful for that.

Peace to you this week.

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this work means inviting others into my journey of ministry – prayerfully and financially. If you would like to support the work that I do at The Dale, I would love to chat. Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com