Far from the Front Lines.

I’ve tried to write this blog a handful of times and the words just aren’t coming so easily. What do you say at a time like this? At a time that none of us have been through before? At a time when so much is unknown. It wasn’t until I was in the shower tonight that I let my emotions start to fall like the water around me and I thought – just go back to the basics. Just tell them how you feel. So here it is.

The truth is, I haven’t felt this far from the front line, ever. I have been walking alongside people in community work and social care since my school days at Ryerson – about 7 years. During this time, I have walked alongside folks experiencing homelessness, addictions, and mental health issues. I have been a food preparer, dish washer, pet sitter, patient visitor, fight breaker-upper, talk someone down-er, prayer, listener, lesson learner, court day supporter, and much more. Now I spend a lot of my days at home with Charlotte, my baby girl. While this is an important job too, that of being a mom (which tasks I won’t list because they involve butt-wiper, etc), this is not the work I am accustomed to. I mean in some ways it is… and in a lot of ways I just miss my job, my team, my people, my work.

I think there is a lot to say in all of this that I am still processing and thinking about and trying to feel. Every time I talk to my people about this I get the same response over and over: It’s complicated, messy, hard. There is no right way to go about all this motherhood/work life balance thing. Right now, I just miss my life. Plain as that. And I feel really weird saying that right now to be honest, because I think it is made all the more messy knowing that some of my friends and colleagues, and even my husband, are still out there in this pandemic fighting. They’re fighting for justice and safety and community and connection for my friends on, or close to the street who are continually pushed aside and ignored. And it’s hard to be here while they are there. Because I wish it could be both ways.

There are moments that came to be in the shower tonight like my life was flashing before my eyes or something. All are moments from my work at The Dale that I hold really close to my heart. That time that Cindy* invited us into her new apartment to pray over it (and meet her cat that she tells me every. single. time I see her that she named Meghan Markle). That time I was pregnant and every time Toby* saw me he rubbed his belly and said, “Did you have a big breakfast too” even though he knew full well I was pregnant and was mostly making fun of himself. That time that my brother sat with Tim* in the grass on outreach and talked about classic books. That time that we pet-sat Samantha’s* dog and 8 cats for months while she was in the hospital. There are a hundred more.

These are the moments I miss so dearly being away from my work and my friends and my people. And these are the moments that we MUST not lose to this virus. We need to keep going, in any way we can, so that our friends can hold onto hope and connection and community and love and joy. And so that we can hold onto these things as well. Where do you isolate when you live outside? How do you panic buy when you live less then cheque to cheque? How do you hold onto community when drop-in after drop-in and coffee shop after coffee shop are shutting down? How do you stay healthy when you live head to head in a shelter? I really don’t have all the answers.

What I do know is that my colleagues at The Dale are trying so hard right now. They are trying so hard to stay visible in Parkdale while people retreat inside, in a way that is safe, intentional, thoughtful and loving. Working without our own building has taught us a lot about resilience and staying quick on our feet, but I don’t know what this ultimate test is supposed to teach us right now. Buildings that we used to parter with are shutting their doors. We are losing space and being pushed further and further outside. We need your help.

The Dale is going to continue to meet for as long as possible in whatever way is possible and safe. We have a lot of vulnerable people in our community and in our lives and their safety is most important. The Dale is meeting outside our usual “spots” right now and staying a safe distance apart physically while trying to remain close in heart. I say “we” but I really need to hand it to Erinn, Jo, Pete and Olivia. They are heroes to me.

I am asking for your help. This is what I can do from home with a baby in one hand and a lot of hope in the other. Can you pray for my team and my community? Can you pray for safety and strength in this unknown time? I know they could really use it. I know this is a time of scarcity for a lot of people so if you have extra to give, would you consider donating to The Dale? There are a lot of things they could use, but as with the times, I’m sure that list is changing by the day. You can read some of what is needed in Erinn’s blog post here (the list of needed items can be found at the bottom of the post if you are short on time, although I encourage you to read the whole thing!). Money is such a support at a time like this – a time where our donations of food are far between since we don’t have a place to receive them, where our kitchens are closing and we aren’t sure what is next… money would help obtain whatever supplies are needed to keep food, sanitary items, and any necessities coming. Any help would be so appreciated. Please visit https://www.thedale.org/donate/.

Peace to you in these times of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I know I always say it but I really do mean it. May you find a peace that passes all understanding.

Love, Meg.

Lessons from Mom Life, Pt. 2

Last time I wrote a blog inspired by a video I watched on YouTube called, “I don’t like being a mom.” If you haven’t read that blog yet, you can find it here. We chat about the often hard realities that come with motherhood, how I miss my “old life” but love my kid, and how both of those things can be true at the same time. This week, as promised, I am back with my own list of Ten Reasons Why Motherhood Is Great. This one is a little long. I hope you have the time to grab a snack and sit with me for a minute. As always, thanks for walking this journey with me and holding this space with me where I can be honest with you. It means a great deal to me. Here we go!

Ten Reasons Why Motherhood is Great:

  1. Her cutie baby laughs and how hard you have to work for them. Charlotte learned to smile at Christmas. Most recently she has been practicing the art of laughing. I could sit all day and try a hundred ways to make Charlie laugh and it won’t come… but then it will! After 8 hours of acting like a complete dork trying to make her laugh, one stupid thing finally pushes her over the edge. And it keeps me humble. It reminds me that sometimes, happiness doesn’t come easily. Sometimes you gotta work really hard at it, and when you do it can truly begin to feel like a gift.
  2. Family cuddles in bed. Ian and I love waking Charlie up on weekends from a long nap, and bringing her into bed with us for a family cuddle. We take turns tickling her, making her smile, watching her stare at the marks on our ceiling, and chatting about how cool she is. I love this bonding time we have together as a family.
  3. Being a team with Ian. One thing I found about motherhood is that it is really hard for me to do alone. Props to all the single parents out there doing motherhood alone, whether you’re a mom or dad. I feel like I can truly be my best mom self when I have Ian there to tag team with and it helps me appreciate how great of a dad he is. After all, I wouldn’t be a mom without him being a dad right alongside me.
  4. Mom Friends. I don’t know if I will ever be the type to go to a “mom group” with Charlotte, but I am slowly coming to appreciate how great it is to have friends who are also moms, especially of young babies. Whether we see each other or just interact online, I love being able to relate and feel seen. “My hair just started to fall out and it’s really hard. I love my long hair,” I said to my mom friend the other day. “Oh me too! That happened to me too!” That’s all it took. I was seen. And it was really nice.
  5. Having a village. Did you ever hear that phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well it’s true. From people offering to watch Charlie to people bringing dinner to us, to people asking how we are… these are the things that help raise a baby and I am so grateful for these people who have become my village. Motherhood wouldn’t be the same without the many hands reaching in to help me and us. I don’t think I would be a good mom without these hands!
  6. The satisfaction of putting your baby to sleep. Charlotte is just starting to get the hang of falling asleep independently. All those long hours of rocking, putting down and picking back up, scheduling naps, and finding routines that work are all starting to pay off. And while I know she isn’t perfect and there will still be bumps in the road, it is really satisfying to walk slowly out of her room, close the door, and see her fall asleep on the monitor. One small step for Charlotte, and one giant step for mom-kind.
  7. Physical pain doesn’t seem as bad. I pushed a baby out of me. And it hurt. A lot! And I had an epidural! That was just my experience. There are so many ways to bring a baby into this world, and so many ways that can be painful. So now when I sit in the doctors office and they have to do a little procedure and they say, this may hurt – I saw, “Nah! I’m good!” And for that I am really grateful. Pain reminds us how strong we really are. Well let me say I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.
  8. Leaving parties early. Most of those who know me know that I am an introvert. I can appreciate a good outing, but I also love to go home, get in bed, and relax in my happy place. It can be hard to keep coming up with excuses for why you have to bounce early when you’re single or when you’re married and your husband is veeeeery extroverted. Now? “Sorry! Gotta get home to the kid! You know how it is…” Maybe you don’t know how it is, but I do! And I am happy to have an introvert pass for life!
  9. Small talk subject. Part of being an introvert for me is being not great at small talk. “Oh man, the weather lately eh?” “Oh yeah… totally.” That’s pretty much as far as I can get before I slowly back away. Now ask me about my kid and I can go on and on. Yes I am one of those people! And I don’t mind if it saves me from talking about the weather for 30 minutes.
  10. Permanent company. Now this is a love/hate thing from my perspective. Remember that introvert thing I was talking about? Loving my alone time? Yeah, some days I really look forward to nap time. But motherhood can also be really isolating. Going from working, even being on public transit, engaging in a city that’s so full of people to being in a baby bubble at home can be a tricky thing to navigate. I think these days I am trying to learn to embrace the balance of things that life offers to me. On those days where I feel lonely, I am so grateful for my best bud Charlotte, and soon she will be able to talk back to me and I won’t feel so odd about talking to a baby who says nothing (although that gets easier with practice, as do most things motherhood throws your way).

I hope this list provides some encouragement to you, especially if you are mom (new, experienced, about to be…). In writing this list, I was pleased in taking time to reflect on how this season has been for me. I know that I can forget to do this, especially in the daily grind of being a parent. What season of life are you walking through? Whether it be easy or hard, can you take some time to reflect on how it has been for you? I found that it was nice to reflect and think about the good things that have come from motherhood. It can be hard, yes. And it can be good. In doing this exercise, I didn’t want to let the hard things go. Pain is apart of life. I am learning that all emotions fall on a spectrum and it is okay to feel all the things you feel. Let us learn to hold both good and hard lightly and learn as we go. That’s what I will be practicing this week. Hope you join me.

Peace to you.

Charlotte, wearing a reminder to me of all that I am as a Mother.

Lessons from Mom Life, Pt. 1

Can we talk about “guilty pleasures” for a second? I don’t really like that term but for the sake of this blog, let’s just go with it. I’m talking about things that you do that bring you joy that maybe not many people know about you. I don’t know how many of you know this about me, but I would say one of my “guilty pleasures” is watching YouTube videos. I love sitting down with my breakfast or lunch while Charlotte is having a nap, and watching a video or two. A few of my favourites are mom related content, recipe videos, or “vlogs” where people film bits of their daily lives and upload it online, kind of like a more relatable mini reality show. Weird? Maybe! But I’ve been watching YouTube videos since my high school days and I love the little communities online that I get to be apart of.

Becoming a mom opened up a whole new door of YouTube content to me. Little did I know that the online world was filled with videos about labour, baby essentials, motherly advice, and so on. Now this is where I needed to give my head a little shake. Start watching some of these videos and you may begin to get a little overwhelmed with all the products, advice, and theories out there about how to be the “perfect” mom. That can lead you down a road of comparison that I sure didn’t want to walk down. Therefore, I’ve really started to be more selective about what I was watching, especially when it came to mom related content.

When Charlotte first was born, I was sat on the couch one day while she slept watching YouTube. I came across a video called, “I don’t like being a mom.” by a woman named Jessica Hover. To be honest, I was a little perplexed at the title, but decided to click through anyways, maybe looking for a hint of honesty in a world too often polished when it comes to the realities of mom life. Jess goes on to talk about how as moms we need each other. We need moms that aren’t too keen on the heavy realities of motherhood and we need moms that feel like they were born to do “this”. She says that she loves her children so much, and still there are many times where she doesn’t like being a mom. She remembers her old life, and her old self, and how things were pre-children. She was honest. And I sighed a breath of relief.

Finally, someone was able to say it. To say what so many of us may be thinking, but what can be hard to admit. Of course I love Charlotte with all of my heart and soul. But can I imagine my life without her? Do I even remember what life was like before? Um yes. I remember it well because it was practically a blink ago. I remember the 26 years I walked the earth before Charlotte and I miss those days. I miss the freedom of my “old” life. Do I take it back? No. Do I accept that I chose this? Yes. Will I have more kids? Hopefully! But that doesn’t mean that everyday of my life I am overwhelmed by my love of motherhood, even though I AM overwhelmed with my love for my kid. And I hope as moms we can accept that this is true for some of us, and not true for others. And that’s okay. Everyone’s experience of motherhood is so unique, and is valid.

Jessica goes on to tell about 10 Reasons Why Motherhood is Great, and the lessons she’s learned while being a mom – the reasons why being a mom is so awesome, even though it can be really hard sometimes. I actually took notes the first time I watched this video and still have them on my phone. And on the days that Charlotte is really grumpy (or I’m grumpy) and I’m really tired, or the days where my mental health isn’t great and I wonder what the heck I got myself into, I look at this list. And it totally helps.

Because this blog is already pretty long, I want to write another blog next time inspired by Jess’s video, and make my own list of reasons why motherhood is great. Because sometimes I need a reminder! It can be hard, and tiring, and isolating. And it can also be a miracle, and lovely, and joyful. Something can be two things at once, and that’s something I love about this world. Things can be good… and hard. We can not love motherhood…. and love our kids more than anything. We can be really sad….. and still find joy in little moments. I feel like I’m already trying to talk myself out of the shame of saying I don’t like motherhood sometimes, but HEY. It’s okay to say you don’t like something. And it’s okay to say you love it. Let’s all be gentle with each other okay? And let’s continue to work on being honest. I know it’s really hard. But I think its worth it.

Peace to you.

PS: Heres a link to Jess’s video. If you have 20 minutes, give it a watch. She is an honest, funny, sweet lady who makes honest videos about motherhood and faith and being a human, and she has some other videos on her channel if you’re interested.

Falling Short and Remaining Faithful.

I was standing in the bathroom getting ready for bed when Ian walked in from outside. He had been out for maybe 30 seconds taking out our recycling. “We have to pray for our friends on the street tonight… it’s freezing.” he said to me as he took off his coat, his face red from the sting of the cold. “And what good is that going to do?” I snapped back – a mixture of many feelings swirling around in my head these days, some being anger, resentment, fatigue, and sadness.

He looked at me shocked, and I apologized. He responded in the only way Ian knows how to do – with deep encouragement. “Meg, we always pray.” He went on to list many of the ways that God has been so faithful. When we needed a car, our good friends had one that they were willing to let go and generously gave to us for our growing family. When we were short on money, people would e-transfer us grocery money without knowing what we were going through. And just last week when I really needed a friend, someone reached out who had no idea what I needed.

The truth is that I’ve been struggling. Mostly I am tired. Don’t get me wrong, Charlotte is amazing. She sleeps really well – but we are still up at night, taking care during the day, learning so much, walking through this season of being new parents. We have been through a lot of transitions in the last couple of months and it is wearing on me. When I’m tired, I don’t do well handling my emotions, and I think I can say the same for Ian. This leads to more arguments, more sleepless nights, less self worth, and more sadness. The past couple weeks have been rough, and I am almost ashamed to admit it. I don’t want to “fail” as a mother or wife, but it feels like I fall short many days. And you know what? I need to learn that this is where God comes in.

Of course a simple prayer for our friends on the street won’t “fix” homelessness. But it does give God the power and the glory which is what we need to do in this life, isn’t it? There are many people tirelessly advocating, walking alongside people, working hard day after day for our most vulnerable friends living outside. And maybe during this time off work where my hands are less busy shaking those I meet outside and more busy holding a baby, I can still pray. I can pray that someone finds my friends and is generous with their time or money. I can pray for my colleagues and husband who are still working hard on the field. I can pray for a miracle. And God works in many big and small ways as Ian reminded me that night.

In my sadness and fear of failure, it is easy to think that God is not with me. It is easy to remain angry, to continue to fight with Ian, to not tell people how I am doing, to give up on therapy. But that’s not the way things get better. I’m not sure where I wanted this blog to go, but I do want to encourage you that God is so faithful, even when it feels like you’re falling short – He never does. So we pray and give God all the glory. We pray and give Him space to do His work. And we remain faithful. I know it isn’t easy, but it is important.

Peace to you this week.

Charlotte Rae.

Charlotte was born on November 6th at 12:59pm. As much as I love the tidiness of whole numbers, there’s something I deeply love about the fact that she arrived one minute short of a whole number. She was anxiously awaited for, just like the ticking of a clock about to hit a new hour. The excitement we felt on that day was nothing short of magical. She is an amazing little human, and I am so glad to know her.

This is probably the blog I should have wrote first! But something about our story feels so big, and yet it feels like I can tell it a hundred times over. I hope you feel cozy when you read this, just as I feel when I sit and write it. I imagine us all in the comfort of my living room, telling the story of Charlotte. One that is as ordinary as any baby being born, and one that is so extraordinary in that she is mine – my baby. I’ll try not to make it too long, but it will be what it is! I more so just want to update you all – my support team – as I long to do in this space we have created together.

I was induced on November 5th, my due date, after a visit to my midwife. She discovered that I had high blood pressure and asked me to go to the hospital to get monitored just to be safe. It was the first and only complication I would have during my pregnancy. After meeting my midwife at the hospital and being monitored, it was decided that I would stay and have a baby. What a tremendous sentence to say so casually! I would have a baby! The idea still seemed so far off to me.

The next couple of hours were filled with walking, laughing, family, tears, and excitement. I wish there was another word that could describe the enormity of how I felt but I’m not sure there ever will be. I walked through contractions with Ian, visited with my family that stayed close to our side all night long, tossed and turned per nurses instructions due to Charlie’s fluctuating heart rate, and waited. Mostly waited.

The next morning, my midwife came back to check on me. I had progressed a lot and spent the next couple hours trying to rest as much as I could through my expanding belly working to get my baby out. I was visited by my family, prayed over, reassured, and loved. I will never forget the support that Ian and I received during those last hours. Finally, around midmorning, we decided to have a baby. I pushed for an hour, the hardest and longest hour of my life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We had medical support near by since Charlotte’s heart rate continued to increase during delivery. And again, as simply as it sounds, she emerged and made the world a little brighter.

Due to the trauma that labor brings to a baby, she was a little purple upon her arrival. Those first few seconds are a blur… a rush of relief and fear. “She doesn’t have good form,” I heard the midwife say as she placed a limp baby onto my chest. And suddenly like it came all at once and was somehow always there, I was her mother. I started saying her name over and over, and in seconds she cried out to me. We spoke in that moment, and she was forever bonded to me. She was mine.

That is the long and short of it, really. There will never be enough words for her story. The days that followed were not what was expected. I injured my pelvis during delivery and discovered that I could not walk. For a week while I healed, I relied on the support of my husband and family. My independence went out the door the second I could not put on my own pants, and I discovered the importance of having support and humility. I needed help, and I am so grateful beyond words for my village of people that held me up that week, and continue to do so.

Charlotte is the light of our lives. Ian and I are blessed with an angel here on earth, and I can’t wait to continue to get to know this little soul that was given to me. It is real and surreal all in the same minute. We are tired, we fight, and we cry. Being a parent is really hard. I miss my independence, my solitude, my sleep, my friends, my work life, and many other things. However in this change, I have received so much more. Laughter, love bigger than life, a miracle of God, a deeper relationship with Ian, the support of my family. And such joy. I am learning new lessons every minute. And I am feeling both joy and sorrow that is watching your baby grow up and knowing that it won’t ever stop. I could say a hundred things about parenting Charlotte, but this blog would grow longer still than it already is.

She is joy. She is love. She is bravery and beauty and grace. She is my sweet baby. I love her. So here’s to Charlotte Rae, our saving grace. May she know peace, and may you as well.

Until next time.

Holding Hands With Grief and Joy.

I remember as a young person often having this feeling of not wanting to get too happy incase something bad happened. It was a feeling of not wanting to settle into joy, lest a wave of grief came crashing over me. This feeling didn’t lurk over me all the time, but I do have memories of this way of thinking. Somewhere along the way I lost that feeling but never really thought about why until the other night when I was scrolling through Instagram of all things.

I came across a post by a writer and artist I follow called Mari Andrew. In her post, she was basically describing how often grief and joy coincide, how it can feel silly to do simple things when parts of the world are literally crumbling and burning. It brought me back to those feelings of never wanting to let myself feel too high incase something came crashing down bringing me to a low. She describes washing her face while a whole country is on fire and how dumb it feels to wash her face, but how dumb it would be not to do something she’s always done. Mari quotes, “The fact that suffering, mundanity, and beauty coincide is unbearable and remarkable.” You can see her post directly below.

Unbearable, and remarkable. The word remarkable means worthy of attention. How do we live in the tension that is unbearable and remarkable? How do we go on doing simply mundane things that living often brings when there is pain and suffering? I think what made me shed my fear of living with too much joy lest it be grabbed from my reach has been working for places such as The Dale. If you’ve read any of my or my colleagues blogs you would be witness to this tension that we often find ourselves in. We are often holding the hands of grief and joy at the very same time, while living in the mundane – cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, writing.

I think I’ve learned that we are resilient. That my friends are so remarkable, that they could live in such unbearable pain and still be capable of showing unconditional love. That life really must go on. That there has to be more than getting stuck in the grief. That I could be painting alongside someone one day, and they could be dead the next. That my friend could be feeding her cats in her apartment one day and be homeless the next. That someone could show explosive and violent anger one day, and tell me they love me the next. Obviously “the next” often takes time. But my point being that I’ve seen what its like to hold joy with someone and have it be ripped away. I’ve also seen those same people get up and keep walking. How remarkable. How worthy of attention.

Today there was a homeless memorial outside the Eaton Centre at the Church of the Holy Trinity, as there is every second Tuesday of the month. Today marked the 1000th name being added to the list of people who have died from homelessness in Toronto. My friends names are on that list. There was a vigil for them while on the other side of a wall people did their shopping… living in the mundane between grief and joy.

My husband gathered with our communities, our co-workers, our city – to hold vigil and remember our friends who died. And I was at home feeding our sweet baby. This is such a prime example of living in the mundane between unbearable and remarkable. How I wish I could have been there. How I wish my friends didn’t die. How I wish I could hold my baby every day of my life, and somehow still be at work with my people doing what I know I was called to do. I miss it and I am cherishing this time at home. How do we learn to live in these tensions? This is a lesson I am learning every day.

How unbearable it feels sometimes to be so close to grief. And how remarkable that we can still hold hands with joy. I challenge you to look for ways you live in tension this week, and be present to that. Peace to you.

These thoughts have been heavy on my heart that past couple days while I’ve tried to figure out how to write them down. I thought a lot about how I wanted to be back in this space for the first time since Charlotte was born sharing my thoughts with you all, and I’m not sure exactly how I wanted it to look. Maybe a little lighter? But this is life. We live in joy and in sorrow. I hope to share with you all soon a little more about our baby and how we are doing. Thank you for being patient with me while I learn how to Mom. I’ve missed you.

See You Soon…

Ian and I found out I was pregnant on the evening of February 20th this year. I remember that night very vividly, and probably always will. But I remember thinking then and for the first good chunk of my pregnancy that it would feel like forever before I got here, to this point. On Sunday I will be entering my 9th month. It will be just four(ish) weeks until we meet our girl. Now that I am here, it seems like it came so fast. Time is funny that way.

This week is my last official week of work before I start maternity leave. When I was about half way or more through being pregnant, I was starting to get anxious about what time away from work would look like. Erinn and I had a meeting and came up with a plan that very much eased my mind. The first week of October would be a regular work week, and the second week of October would be a sort of “phasing out”. This would be a time for me to come late and leave early, not attend any meetings, not bring my keys… just to take the time to sit and be with people without worrying about work duties. Again, it seemed like so far away, and yet here we are.

As I have written about a few times in this space before, I have been so cared for by my community. Especially in the last month or so when pregnancy has started to get the best of me, they hold me tight and make sure I am okay. I will be forever grateful for their loving care. This Monday I took some time after lunch to sit with a couple of my friends. The room had cleared out pretty fast this day, so it was just the four of us at a table. We were chatting about Rice Krispie squares of all things, and I was writing out a recipe for my friend Jane*. Suddenly, she said that she wanted to pray for me. Jane is wise and brave and sweet and knowing. She put her hand on my arm and the two others followed suit. Jane often prays in a quiet, calm voice. As she prayed over me and my baby, my other friend at the table prayed at the same time in tongues as he often does. I listened and was so moved by their sudden willingness to pray over me. This is my community. They know Jesus, and they know how to love really well. I am so grateful to learn from them everyday.

This whole week has felt pretty weird to be honest. I know each day is my “last” of this and “last” of that for a long while, but it feels like I will always remain in this time of just being pregnant and working the same as always (I know people say that near the end of pregnancy it feels like it just lasts forever even when you’re so ready to be done!). Even last week at our staff retreat, it was odd in some ways to be planning ahead, for things that I won’t necessarily be around for. I know I will be back eventually and that I will visit, etc. But a year is a long time. I know there will be conversations had without me, that my participation will be from afar, that people and things will ebb and flow and change as they do and should. I just hope and pray that I can remain both here and there – here at home with my baby soaking up time and learning how to be a parent, and there at the Dale with my community, my people, my team. I will miss them deeply.

This has been such a year. Being pregnant has been a journey… in confidence in my body and bonding with this being that is so close, yet so far. I have learned at work to be more confident in a variety of ways, in my role at the Dale and fundraising to name a few. Ian and I are still learning how to be together and what it means to love each other well as husband and wife – something that takes a lot of work and time and effort. And a lot of my friends have passed away… too many. Wally. Keith. Dallas. Paul. Sharky. James. Rondine. Dane. Robin. And sadly there have been so many that I’m looking at the list wondering if I missed anyone. They deserve to be named and remembered. I know a year is a long time and in the next one that I will be away from work there are more that could be added to this list. I pray for a break from the grief and for peace for my communities that have lost far too many.

What I am trying to say is that a year is a long time. In this year I have learned so much about myself and have grown in my capacity at work. And in the next year I will learn new things as a mother of a daughter who I cannot wait to meet. I will be taking a break from this space after this post for a while until the next time when I introduce you to our baby (!). I am grateful for all those who have tuned in week after week, who have read my words from the heart, who’ve shared my posts, who’ve commented and prayed and loved me. Thank you. This is not a goodbye! It’s just see you soon. I pray that you will be well.

As always, peace to you.

I will continue in my fundraising efforts in my leave from work, if you would like to join me financially on my ministry journey. I fundraise all of my salary in order to be able to work at The Dale. If you would like more information about this, please reach out to me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. Contributions can be made one time via cheque, cash or through CanadaHelps, or monthly through PAR.

Camp Retreat

A couple weekends ago we took a group of community members to Camp Koinonia near Parry Sound for our annual Fall retreat. This is the third year I have gone on retreat with our community, and each year has provided me different experiences, opportunities to connect with people, and memories. We like this retreat time as it provides all of us refuge from the city which can be loud, stressful, and hectic. It gives us a glimpse into the beauty of nature, opportunity to eat three meals a day together, and time to sit in front of a fire.

Each year has shown me again that community life comes with it’s own ups and downs. Just because we all take a bus out of the city together, doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory. We still have to learn to be together and live with the challenges we carry whether we are in the city or not.

I’ll admit, there were some hard things about this year at camp. Those things deserve to be acknowledged because they are part of the experience. People can have a hard time leaving the city no matter how much they want to go, and that built up anger can get taken out on us in different ways. This is hard sometimes. But as I try to always remember and write about here, things can be hard and good at the same time. And camp this year was good. We got the sense that overall, our folks left feeling refreshed, happy, grateful, and renewed. People took pictures, went out on the water, swam, collected stories, and talked about all those stories for days after we returned.

There are lots of memories that I will cherish this year from camp. From Ian needing to be pulled to shore after trying a faulty water toy, to working on a puzzle with different groups of people over the weekend. From sitting around the fire talking about enneagrams, to Jo’s friend Sarah visiting with her kids which has become a yearly tradition. From bonding with my community, to stepping in front of arguments. These moments are all valid in their own way, and I would not trade the experience. I am grateful for this annual retreat away and hope we can continue to make it as accessible and fun as possible each year.

View of the lake at camp

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Did you know I fundraise money to be paid for working at The Dale?? If you would like to walk this journey with me and support my ministry financially please get in touch. This can be done by monthly or one time donations!

Riding (Waddling, Rolling, Strolling) for Refuge

If you’ve been following my journey at The Dale for a while, you may know that each year we participate in the Ride for Refuge in order to raise money for our general fund. The Ride for Refuge provides a platform that The Dale and many other organizations use to help raise money for their specific needs. Without the Ride, The Dale would have little capacity to do a fundraiser this large, as it takes a lot of work, planning, and money to be able to organize an event like this. This is why we partner with the Ride for Refuge.

All of the money that The Dale has in its general fund is a direct result of fundraising efforts. Erinn does a large amount of speaking, networking, grant writing, and fundraising to support our organization. As a team, we help her by participating in and creating events that raise money (such as our annual online auction and this ride) for our general fund. On top of that, we all as a staff team must fundraise through our own networks to raise the money for our salaries. The Dale is not supported through any government funding. It all comes from generous people such as yourselves who sustain us financially, as well as in prayer and friendship.

The money that we raise that goes towards our general fund helps support our programming in many ways. As many of you would know, The Dale does not own a building space. We partner with many community locations to hold our programs and meal drop-ins. This means that we aren’t spending large chunks of money maintaining a building space because we don’t have one! The money that we raise goes towards buying some food for our meal programs (we do need to purchase some food other than what we are donated from Second Harvest each week). It also goes towards purchasing supplies such as water and socks for our outreach walks that we go on weekly or bi-weekly, especially in the winter and middle of summer. Another thing this money is used for is our community retreat that we go on each Fall – we take a group of community members to a camp for a weekend as an escape from the city into the calm of nature. This requires a bus and a cost to the camp. We also use the money to help with individual support such as buying emergency grocery cards for community, cleaning supplies if we are supporting someone clean their home, or linens for people just moving into a new place. Those are just a few of our weekly/monthly/yearly expenses.

The Ride for Refuge isn’t just another event to me where I show up, walk, and go home. I know that the money that we raise is actually going somewhere important. It’s going towards providing wholesome food to my friends who may have otherwise not had breakfast on a Thursday morning. It’s going towards making someone’s place just that much cleaner and more habitable. It’s going towards experiences of joy and retreat at camp each year. It’s going towards meeting people where they are at on the street, and offering a water bottle as a way to start a bigger conversation. These are all things that I have a hand in as a community worker at The Dale. So please know that when I push these events on social media and email you reminding you about the Ride, I’m doing so because this event is an annual event that make such a large difference to us as a community. The more money we raise, the more opportunity we have to walk alongside people in support each week, to show people that they are valued and cared for by providing a meal where we can all sit at the same table and eat together, to show up for people in order to show them that they too can show up in the best way that they know how.

I am asking you to please support us this year as we try to raise money for our organization through the Ride for Refuge. You are so welcome to come and ride/walk with us on October 5th. All it takes is signing up and raising some money for us through your own networks. If that is not possible for you, I would ask you to donate towards my participation in this event by following the link below or sending a cheque. I will be walking (more like waddling at 8 months pregnant!) 5km this year. You can always reach out to me for more information. I hope this post helped answer any questions you may have had regarding the Ride or where your money is going. Please know that any support you offer us, financially or otherwise, is always held so close to our hearts and deeply appreciated. You really are making a difference in someone’s life.

You can donate at this link: walk.w-ith.me/meagan

Thank you!

A group photo from this year’s annual retreat.
Ian and I about to bike 25km at last year’s Ride for Refuge!
A photo from an Open Stage last year, one gathering where community can show off their talents!

One Good Reason.

I try to keep up with this blog so that I post once a week, or so. The past couple weeks, I feel like I have been struggling with knowing what to write. This can happen sometimes, for various reasons, and I try to forgive myself for not coming out with a blog once a week. However, if the next week I’m still struggling, it gives me good reason to sit and reflect on how I’m feeling. I can think about what is causing the writing block, what feelings are maybe overwhelming me that I’m trying to put into words, or what some good things are that happened the past couple weeks. I value that this blog has become a space where I can be really vulnerable and honest, and that my words are met with love and care.

I guess in my reflection this week, my mind brought me back to a few days ago. Ian and I were having breakfast together one weekday morning. We have come to cherish this time together where we can eat a meal side by side, check in about how we feel, and pray together. This morning we had Spotify music on in the background and a Lady Gaga song happened to come on called, “One Million Reasons.”

There was one part that stood out to us, and the lyrics are like this:

“I bow down to pray
I try to make the worst seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all this worn out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one to stay.”

If my memory serves me, Ian and I had been chatting about the heaviness we have been feeling about work and life in community. With all the deaths happening, memorials to attend, the heat of the summer beating down on our friends living outside, and the general awareness that our friends in community are experiencing heavy things, we felt really weighed down. Sometimes these jobs we have can feel hopeless. Ian works in a similar field of work that I do, and we both know a lot of the same folks having worked in the same places over the years. When people die all in a row, when people miss important appointments that you show up for, when people are caught between cracks in a system that is very broken… you start to feel like the point is lost. It feels like there are a hundred million reasons to walk away somedays.

However, the last line of the song ends in what feels like hope. Maybe we all just need one good reason to stay. One reason to stay where we are, to hold on a little longer, to hope for the best, to see the good. It can be hard to find somedays. But there are good moments amidst the heavy things that make our hearts feel lighter.

Ian helped house a couple people the past two weeks. This means there are a couple less people living in shelter or in unsafe spaces. He is advocating daily for people to to feel safe and cared for. It is hard work, and even the act of doing this advocating is a miracle in a system that is very broken. All people deserve love and care.

There are many good moments that happen at the Dale that make our hearts feel lighter. People are growing in their capacity to care for each other and practice their conflict resolution skills, for example. Others are practicing being sober, even if only for a day. That is a really hopeful thing. Some are working on cleaning to make their living situations better. They are learning to advocate for themselves and we get to walk alongside them in support. I am learning to find my voice, and say what I need. This comes through a lot of work around not trying to manage everyone’s emotions, knowing what I need, and being respectful to myself and others in that process. Good things are happening, although slow and steady, and they are all good reasons to stay.

Our friend made a beautiful sign for our team a while back, and I forgot to share it here. Now seems like a good time. He created an “office” sign for us in a corner of one little room we use as storage. The sign lists our names, and says, “Anyone need help, come to see one of us. We will help you all.” This person put a framed picture of Jesus next to the sign, and a little fake bouquet of flowers near by with a chair for us to sit down. English is not their first language, but you can see that they tried really hard to make us this sign that communicated that we are here to help. I am grateful for my friends at The Dale who care for us in such different ways, from asking us how we are to making us little office signs. We walk through a lot of hard things together, and do a lot of learning with one another. But they are the ones that also give me one good reason after another to stay. All I need is one good reason. They are mine, and that is enough.

Our sign, and Jesus.

Did you know that I fundraise my own salary at The Dale? Would you like to support me in my ministry here so I can keep working and increase my hours? You can do so by PAR, online donation, or cheque. Please contact meagan.gillard@gmail.com for more information.