Searching for God.

I have been feeling overwhelmed. There are a lot of things these days making my brain and my calendar full. Between preparing for a baby, walking alongside friends, feeling heavy for things going on in the lives of my Dale and Sanctuary communities, being a wife, and just growing a person inside of me and all the emotional ups and downs that comes with, I have had a harder time coping with my regular anxieties.

This is not to say that I do not have a support system. I am very fortunate to have people on “my team”, walking with me, checking in, and holding me up. But I find that feeling of breaking down, thinking “I can’t do this today”, and wanting to back away slowly and run coming to me more often than I would like. This is one way my anxiety manifests itself, and some days are harder than others to put one foot in front of the other.

As a team at The Dale and at home with Ian, the topic of intentional prayer has come up for me. I think God is trying to tell me something! I have always had to work harder at praying. But I have been trying to pray with more intention, and ask God for help. Erinn has talked about this with us, and recently preached about it at church. When we cry out to God for help, it doesn’t mean that our checklist of things will fall into our laps. It means we will learn that we don’t actually want this or that, but that we just want God to be present. In those moments where I find that I just can’t walk further, I pray for a strength that I really don’t have on my own. When the tears won’t stop falling, I pray for a peace that passes all my understanding. And it has been coming. I wouldn’t be here without it.

I know that God listens. My little mind has been noticing more and more that he is hearing me and working in surprising ways. From blessings from people when I least expect them, to a healthier relationship forming between Ian and I, to my feet being able to move one in front of the other… He is with me. I don’t expect that all my dreams and desires will come true. But I am learning to ask for God to come and how that is the most important thing we can ask for. For Him to come and show His face so I can feel a calmness through my anxiety and a strength when I can’t find it. To show me peace and to know that I am not in control, no matter how much I want to be. All I want is to know that He is there. And I am learning to give up my control of all the things happening around me, and let Him show me that He is the one with the power, deserving of all the glory.

Ian and I have been praying with and for each other each morning after we eat breakfast together. I am grateful for a husband that holds my hand and asks if he can pray for me, who reminds me that we can actually talk to God and reach out for help, and that this is a really great thing to do with intention and when we are sitting there full of tears not knowing what to do or say. We can always say, “Oh God. Please help me.” I’ve been saying that to God so often that I’m sure he saying back to me, “I’m right here! Can’t you see me?” I am grateful that He never leaves or forsakes me.

I encourage you to reach out prayerfully this week, and really seek God. He is there! I know this to be true.

Peace.


Did you know that I fundraise my own salary to be able to work at The Dale? If you would like to support my ministry here, please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com. You can support me by monthly PAR, cheque, or CanadaHelps online donations. Thanks!

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Of All the Places…

I must say, working at an organization with no actual physical building has been one of the most interesting experiences of my life. We like to joke that the only “walls” we own are those surrounding our little PO Box at the Canada Post down the street. While there are many great things about having a building and a space to call your own (such as having your own office, knowing where things are and only having to walk down a hall to find them, having easy access to a bathroom, etc), there have actually been many more perks to being out in the open and “spilling onto the streets.”

There is a whole history behind why the Dale is now a nomadic church, however I will save that for another blog since it is an important story that deserves it’s own space. I will say however, that I have heard it was quite the experience being displaced from a building, having to get rid of much of what was owned, and spilling onto the streets and becoming nomadic. I would not know what it would be like to experience homelessness. But in the way the Dale became a nomadic organization, it was eye opening and relationally important for us to know what it was like to be evicted and out on the streets.

That being said, there are many…. funny things about not having our own space, as you may have heard me describe over the years. Having our food for community meals in various buildings, having to remember if it was coffee from this or that cupboard that needed replacing, carting meat around because it needs to be thawed in one building and consumed in another, knowing where washrooms are if we are having a drop-in outside, remembering to bring all 5 of our keys incase we need access to a certain place on a certain day… these are all the little things we have to endure by being housed in multiple rooms and locations.

We have met in coffee shops, back rooms squeezed between shelves, the backseat of Erinn’s van, alley ways, and other people’s offices/kitchens. We have cried in grocery store line-ups, prayed behind freezers, and caught up in pews at many churches. Our computers have been opened at Starbucks, pastor’s offices, and basement kitchens. Staff meetings can be any and everywhere there is a chair or spot on the floor to sit, bonus points for a coffee maker. We have had drop-in and church in parks, side rooms, and the backs of thrift stores. We have 2 fridges and a half, 1 freezer, many shelves, 2 cupboards, multiple buckets and baskets, and stuff being contained and paired down over and over by multiple hands. There are four staff, hundreds of community, too many volunteers to count, lots of tears, many outbursts, a lot of laughs in a single minute, and so many gracious people opening their doors, tables, chairs, floors, kitchens, basements. We are a group of mushy and banged up hearts.

We are blessed. Wednesday morning we usually meet at a church in Kensington to work on admin stuff. We sit in the kitchen that lives in the basement and work for hours sitting at a table facing each other. This morning we were moved upstairs due to use of the space, and were shown an office with three chairs and a table, plugs for the computers, water, coffee, generosity, and love. We were cared for, and this is just in one seemingly simple way. I am grateful that this is the norm for us. I also recognize that we are privileged. Many of our friends who are outside on the streets are not shown the same hospitality, are not invited in, are not shown care. And I hope that by care being extended to us, that we can then offer extended care to many who are looking for a seat at the table. We can all squish in, move over, pass a cup down, and share the love. We wouldn’t be surviving without it.


Did you know that I fundraise my own salary in order to be able to work at The Dale? I am currently working 16 hours a week, and continue to fundraise in order to raise my capacity for work at The Dale. If you would like to become a financial supporter of my ministry here, please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com. You can donate by PAR, cheque, or CanadaHelps and this can be done monthly or once!

Joy in Experience

My (not so little anymore) brother, Matthew , came to spend some time with us at the Dale last week and this week. He is just finishing grade nine, and was very keen to get some of his required community service hours completed. So he asked if he could do some hours at The Dale and it all worked out for him to join us for a couple of weeks.

I must admit that I was a little nervous for him to come and be with us. I think I will always see Matthew as my five year old little bro, even though he is growing up and maturing into his own person. So to picture my little brother coming to drop-in with me, which can sometimes be a tense environment (even though also quite lovely), freaked me out. What if he saw someone yelling at me or upset? What if he saw something he wasn’t used to (which may as well be most things since we grew up in the suburbs of Brampton)? What if this that and the other thing? There could have been so many things that my mind made up that would make this a disaster for my brother. As per usual, my mind wondered to the worst instead of thinking of the best.

So now as I sit here reflecting on the time he was here with us, I can say that it was really beautiful. It was beautiful for me to witness, and hopefully beautiful for him to experience. Here are some highlights:

  • We went for an outreach walk on Matthew’s first week, and stopped for quite a while to talk to our friend Tom*. Tom was laying out in the park in some shade and we talked to him a long time about books. Matthew discovered that he had the same taste in books as Tom, and they got to chatting about some classics that I haven’t even heard of. For the rest of the night, Matthew kept mentioning how glad he was to have met Tom.
  • At our Tuesday drop-in, we had to move to the thrift store inside due to possible rain which means we sat at the back and brought out the Scrabble board. Matthew played with a few other of our community members and apparently it was his first time ever playing Scrabble!
  • As we moved into his second week with us, people started to recognize my brother and would say, “Hey, Matthew!” and shake his hand.
  • I think it was an adjustment for Matthew to learn that part of serving can actually be sitting and chatting with people, rather than always doing something with your hands. Our kitchen volunteers welcomed him with open arms on Monday to help in the kitchen and then I really encouraged him to sit down during the meal and after to talk with people. I know this is hard! But he did it, and it was a joy to look across the room to see my brother sitting and laughing with my friends.
  • Half way through our drop-in in the park yesterday, I noticed that Matthew wasn’t beside me. After a brief moment of panic, I looked around and saw him sitting with his new friend, Scott*, chatting away. He asked me near the end of drop-in if we would see Scott again, and was so thrilled about their conversation. I had tears come to my eyes.

I am grateful that Matthew was willing to step out of his comfort zone and hang out with me this week. I feel blessed to have shown him what I do for my life’s calling and I hope this is an experience that he remembers as he gets older and can process community work in a different way, and all that comes with it. I am grateful for my community and their continued generous hospitality which they extended to my brother this week. It was a joy to have my little bro hang out with us. I am proud of him!

Peace to you this week! I pray that you are able to find joy in new experiences.

My salary here at the Dale is fundraised by me! If you would like to partner with my financially, you can do so by cheque, PAR or CanadaHelps online donation. Please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com to chat more.

A Baby Changes Everything

As many of you already know, Ian and I are expecting a baby in early November. This is definitely an exciting time for our family. We are filled with many emotions that one may normally experience when waiting for the arrival of their newborn… excitement, happiness, fear, joy, fear, love, fear… I’m sure you can see a theme! In all seriousness, becoming a parent is a lovely yet terrifying thing – at least from my point of view. I have, however, found deep joy and encouragement in sharing this experience with my Dale family.

To be honest, when I was approaching the end of my first trimester and getting ready to share with my community that I was pregnant, I was really nervous! I think it was a mixture of anticipation in sharing a secret that I kept to my close friends and family for so long, to wondering what people’s reaction would be, to worrying about what kind of personal space boundaries I might need to set. You see, I wasn’t just sharing with a few people in an office that I was having a baby. I would be sharing with my close community families, those at the Dale and Sanctuary, which encompassed maybe over a hundred people give or take. It felt like a lot.

I wanted to be sensitive as well to the fact that a lot of people have mixed feelings about children. From the loss of kids, maybe trauma around childhood, to a number of feelings surrounding parenthood and motherhood. I felt like I wanted or needed to hold my joy close in case someone’s sadness came pouring out upon hearing my news. What actually ended up happening was that I was met with so much love, joy, protection, and care. It was, and continues to be, so beautiful. I feel grateful.

Upon telling people that I was expecting, I was surrounded with care from the beginning. My job can be very physical. We are often facilitating drop-ins on our feet, preparing meals, doing dishes after, doing outreach, helping people clean, etc. My community at the Dale has made sure I don’t lift anything too heavy, that I sit down and take breaks, that I eat something. I am asked so many times a day if I’m alright, how I’m doing, if I’m tired, if I need anything. I have had to really set down my pride, to be honest, and let people love me. I am used to being strong and independent, and its not that I am not these things now, but growing a human does make you slightly more fragile in some ways. My people are really showing me how much I am loved and how much our little baby is loved in the ways they look after me. It really is a reminder of how much we hold up the idea of giving and receiving at The Dale. I am receiving a lot of love and care, especially these days, and being in friendship based ministry and community continues to be such a blessing to my heart. 

I have been grateful for all that has come from this experience. I have experienced people’s deep care for me, and received small gifts for our baby (including a painting of frogs with glow in the dark painted lily pads). I’ve heard motherly advice, and been asked questions about what how I am feeling. There have been handshakes and hugs, but also silent nods or funny comments that I’m not really sure how to take sometimes. I gather all these things in my arms and know that this baby will be a gift, not only to me, but to all of us I hope in some way or another. I thank God for his love shown to me through my community, and for unexpected places of joy and hope. I pray for all those experiencing loss, and those who have had really hard experiences with family and babies. I know that these things are not to be held lightly. I pray for my community, that I can care and love them as much as they love me. I think that’s what it’s all about really – learning to love each other well, through our joy and pain, fear and excitement, happiness and sorrow. 

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement over my family. We feel deeply loved.

My salary at the Dale is fully fundraised by me! If you would like to financially support me in this way you can do so by cheque, PAR, or Canada Helps. Please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com.