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.

—-

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

Looking More Closely.

After the winter passed, Ian and I started taking Charlotte on more walks outside. When she learned to walk it was December – cold and snowy. We kept her in the stroller until a couple months ago when the snow cleared from the ground and she has been enjoying learning to walk in shoes after being barefoot for most of her life, go wherever she pleases, and just explore the world at her own pace. She has taught me many things just from simply walking around on her own. I have learned to trust in her and that she will learn to pick herself up when she falls, to be patient when she is slow and just enjoy not being in a rush, and to look more closely at pretty much everything.

Charlotte loves looking at little things. Any stick, pinecone, or leaf she can find becomes a treasure to be shared. She picks up even the most crusted up nasty pinecone and runs to us with it in the air above her head and a smile on her face. She places it excitedly in our hands and grunts (since she can’t speak yet). She even makes sure that we keep it for long enough until she finds the next thing to bring us. Recently she has learned what a tree is. She keeps her hands up in the air in the stroller pointing to every.single.tree she sees and trying in her own way to say “Tree!” I remember that the world is still so new to her, and am amazed and what it must be like to see things with fresh eyes. Imagine the joy we would feel if we all tried to look at things with fresh eyes.

When sitting down to write this blog I had no inspiration. I asked Ian and my mom both what to write about and was finding it hard to accept any suggestions. So I tried to sit down and lean in. What was I feeling? Heaviness, despair, sadness. The world around us feels so dark. More COVID restrictions, violence, death. How can my daughter find joy in pinecones when there is so much to worry about? It is because she looks closely. She can only see what is right in front of her – each little piece. If she looked at the whole playground like I did, she might see all the garbage, the mess, the kids not in school, and the adults with stressed faces. But she doesn’t know that yet, and I am grateful. She knows beauty in sticks and grass. She knows to listen for the sounds of birds and wait for dogs to walk by. She is learning how to run and talk. Her brain is too new to see the bigger picture. She must look more closely. And I think I need to do that as well.

I hope one day that I can teach Charlotte about grief. I want her to know that hard things exist and that the world is heavy. I want her to be able to feel a range of emotions and be empathetic towards many people. I hope she is compassionate and kind and holds space for people. But I hope she remembers to look closely too. To focus on one thing at a time. To see beauty in small things. To look at one thing before examining the bigger picture. To keep learning and exploring and finding joy in being patient.

I know these days are hard. I still don’t think I know what to write about. But I do know that there is hope in a few things… that being the joy of children and flowers. So I hope today’s lesson from Charlotte speaks to you and I hope this picture helps as well. We see this tree on our daily walk and we stop to watch the flowers open. We take our time and look closely. And from this angle? Well, the world seems a little less scary.

Peace to you.


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

Like the Grass.

When Spring comes, it is easy to notice new growth practically everywhere. Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips, new buds on trees and bushes… the list goes on! I have the pleasure of working with some flower loving women so my knowledge on flowers is definitely growing as well. Finding the beauty in bright, vibrant new flowers does not take much effort. Their colours draw you in, large buds opening up and blooming right before your eyes. Before buds emerge, green stems shoot from the ground seemingly overnight. The growth of Spring flowers happens quickly and before we know it, flowers have emerged all around us – a sign of hope after a cold winter.

What is maybe not so easy to observe are the little blades of grass. They are often small, teeny tiny little blades. We see puddles and mud most of Spring and only hope for grassier ground that we can eventually lay out on in the sun, but the way the grass emerges does not seem as obvious. There are no tall shoots of stem, no buds waiting to erupt, no yellows, pinks and purples to draw you in. Grass is everywhere, while flowers seem special.

Maybe I have grass on my mind lately because of our tomb garden baskets that we grew together as a church over Lent. Or maybe it is simply the season of growth that is causing me to look more closely at the ground. But in being amazing by the flowers, I have tried not to forget that we can also be amazed by the grass.

It grows slowly and steadily. In little spurts it pops up, somehow on pavement and beside sidewalks where it is easily trampled. It gets rained on, walked over, pulled out by the little hands of children. It is abused by pets and large shoes. Yet somehow, it remains. People are careful of flowers… but grass? Not so much. Yet grass is what makes up most of the earth covering it and sheltering it.

The growing grass has reminded me of some relationships that I have with people in the Dale community, most specifically with my friend John*. John and I are civil… we get along. There have been times that we have disagreed and there will be times again. I have been accused of being too harsh by John and of talking too firmly in response to his yelling (which is kind of funny in a way). We have had our ups and downs, that is for sure. But since returning from maternity leave I have tried to be careful with John. I have treaded lightly, not stepping too firmly. I have waiting a little longer for words to come through the silence. I have tried to be more patient, knowing that there are and were many hard days that John has walked. And like the grass, our relationship is slowly blooming. There are more hello’s coming my way, more laughs, and more shared stories. I feel more open in my heart too, looking for things on my travels that I know he is in need of. This giving and receiving is causing us to grow with each other.

As I said, John and I are like the grass. We have been trampled on, even sometimes having stepped on each other. Our relationship is not as vibrant and obviously beautiful as flowers. We have taken time, but have somehow grown where people have thought we wouldn’t, like in cracks through the pavement. We are steady somehow now, through years of trial and error. This is not to say that we will be perfect. Grass is funny that way… it grows brown when dry. It is easily pulled out and tossed aside. But it is resilient. I have learned that I am okay with having relationships with people sometimes that are similar to how grass grows. If it takes time, is steady and resilient, and has hope to continue to grow despite hard times, I will take it. Flowers come and go, but grass remains.

May you find peace in steady things that take time. They are worth it.


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

My Hands Brought Isolation.

For the past year or so The Dale has been using a church on Cowan Ave in Parkdale as our home base. This church allows us to use space in the basement to store our belongings, prepare meals, and serve those meals to go on the sidewalk outside. We have bright yellow tape that is spaced out along the sidewalk from the church all the way down to the library at the corner (I know it’s hard for you to picture but it is quite a long way). This allows for visual markings so people remember to space out in line to get food. Our friends wait along Cowan to meet us at the front of the church where we stand under an arch with a table to space us out. From there we hand out our meals to go in bags on Monday and Thursdays. It is quite different from our pre-covid days of sitting together at a table and sharing a meal “family style” from a platter at the centre.

Now that we are a year into our covid days, most everyone is aware of the tape and respects it as a way to keep their neighbour safe. However, over the winter a lot of the tape came off due to the snow, ice, wind and just being walked on for 365 days. We had run out of tape for a while, so while most people respected the line as I mentioned, there was a lot of reminding from us along the way for people to remain apart and not clump. We are social beings after all! It was time for it to be replaced.

So today when Erinn brought new fresh yellow tape for us to line the sidewalk with, I got to work before we handed out breakfast replacing the lines previously taped down. There were already a few people outside waiting for us so I just worked around them, asking them to step back so I could tape at their feet. Everyone was helping me with the spacing, making sure the lines were not too close together and thanking me for replacing it to make sure everyone was safe.

Thursday morning breakfasts aren’t as busy as Monday lunch. People slowly drift along and pick up their breakfast, many not awake yet. So once I got past the 15 or so people waiting in line, I worked the rest of the way on my own looking and counting steps and placing tape to keep people apart. I stopped at the end near the library looking back at the yellow lines behind me. I felt on one hand like I had done something good, especially since I was thanked and encouraged along the way. We have to stay apart right now, whether we like it or not. And yet somehow I was sad. My hands were placing the tape that would keep people isolated. A bright yellow reminder that we cannot be together.

I have been feeling covid fatigue lately. For many of us, I think it comes in waves. Sometimes, I put my head down and get stuck in my new routine. Wash hands, wear a mask, don’t touch anything. If someone comes too close, step back. FaceTime Grandma Beulah, think about hugs, pray. And sometimes I remember that this is hard. I miss my family. I miss my coworkers faces. I miss sitting with my community for a meal. There are too many “I miss’s” to put here. And the reality is that we are all experiencing this together but in so many different ways. I know the way that covid is impacting my life looks so different from someone else’s. However, I think we all have valid reasons to feel that there are some days that just are hard.

I long for the day that when the yellow tape fades, we can let it be. I long for the day our meals will not be in bags. I long for the day we can do outreach and invite people to come visit us during drop in so we can talk longer, pray holding hands, and serve each other food.

There is no neat ending to this blog. I’m sure there could be a way that I could write it to invite hope. But sometimes we just need to hear each other in our heaviness. Right? It’s okay for things to be both heavy and light. We don’t know what the future holds. My hope rests in God’s promises, and I am grateful for His provision. AND – this is hard. May peace be yours this week, whatever that looks like.

Six feet apart.

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

Feeding the Multitude.

Many of us who went to Sunday school know of the stories in the Bible where Jesus fed multitudes of people with only a handful of fishes and loaves of bread. These stories were examples of miracles, where all the glory could be given to God for the way he makes a way for His people to be provided for. No one was left out or left behind. Everyone was fed. This saying, “loaves and fishes” has been on my heart a lot lately. It’s either been repeated in my head or spoken out loud by someone, and I am reminded again and again that my God is truly one of miracles.

Last week on Sunday there was a mix up with our Second Harvest delivery and we ended up 100 meals short of the 100 meals we normally get to give out to our community for lunch on Monday. If you got your math right, that means we had 0 meals to give. So we got our thinking caps on that Monday morning and got to work. We put any and all food together that we could find in our freezers and fridges and tried with all our might to make a dignifying, satisfying, satiating meal to go. It was A LOT more work, a lot more time, and a lot more of a scramble (we are so thankful for Second Harvest, the meals they provide us usually each week, and for all the volunteers we had pre-pandemic that made kitchen work possible).

At the end of our morning prep time, Erinn and I were putting ladles of soup into cups to give out in line. We were mixing and pouring, adding soup here and there, readjusting, adding some water to the pot… anything to get just a couple more cups. In the midst of me handing her cups and her trying to make them fuller she looked over at me and said, “Fishes and loaves.” Well thanks be to God, there was enough soup for everyone in line that day… and a little extra left over. That never fails to boggle my mind. We had enough to give everyone and more, when we thought we would not have enough. What a miracle of God’s provision.

In another instance, last week as both my coworkers Jo and Olivia have written about, we had a boot fitting clinic outside our HQ at a church on Cowan Ave. The Meeting House Toronto has generously partnered with us over the past number of years. They had $2,000 to buy brand new boots for our community and came equipped last Sunday with the boots, sanitizer, PPE, shoe fitting devices, and a happy attitude. This day was nothing short of a kingdom kind of beautiful. It’s the story of a community so loved by God that each member who showed up miraculously got a pair of boots when we thought there wouldn’t be enough. You see, the number of boots sitting on the tables ready to give out seemed like way less the amount we needed for the feet waiting in a line that spanned all the way down the road. But somehow… somehow it all worked. For the three or so people who did not receive boots that day, there are funds for those people to be fitted with what they need. A dignifying, graceful, beautiful, left us in tears kind of day. Enough feet to fill boots, enough sizes of boots, enough patience in line, enough Grace. Fishes and loaves.

New boots ready to find their feet!

These kinds of things happen to us often, I have come to realize. They happen in big ways like the two stories told above and in seemingly smaller but no less important ways too. When there’s enough forgiveness to reconcile a heated argument, enough strength to get through each day, enough understanding when someone is different than you. All things miraculously provided by God when it seems there just wouldn’t be enough.

Working at The Dale means I have seen miracles happen before my eyes. Fishes and loaves have fed the multitudes. It never stops being awe inspiring, tear jerking, glory to God giving. As Jo put it on her blog, we don’t know why some things don’t happen just the way we want even if we pray as hard as we can, and we may never know. But I do know that I believe in the miracles that do happen just a little more these days. I hope you find some of your own this week.

With peace.


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 Unique Shrove Tuesday

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent. As per tradition, we partook in pancakes which symbolizes an indulgence before marking the start of Lent, in which Jesus retreated to the desert and fasted for 40 days before his execution. Depending on your religious beliefs, you may have heard of Lent before, or participated before by giving up something just as Jesus fasted. Growing up, I was certainly aware of Lent happening but did not really participate fully. I heard of friends or family giving up something such as chocolate or sweets not really understanding the deeper meaning behind the sacrifice.

I am so grateful to work at the Dale and be welcomed into participating in different seasons. I am learning as I go along, just as many of you may be. I am thankful for my team and community where I feel like I can learn about things like Lent and Advent as an adult and embrace new spiritual practices. Last year at this time, before COVID, I was welcomed to the Church of the Resurrection on Shrove Tuesday. They are a beautiful, feel-like-family partner church to the Dale in many ways, and all of the money from their pancake dinner was going to The Dale. I was invited to share a bit about The Dale with them and thank them for their generosity. That was such a beautiful memory for me, and one in which I had to stand out of my comfort zone by talking in front of a room full of people. I also think that night was the first pancake supper I had ever been to.

Well, this year with COVID restrictions, we had to get pretty creative about what our pancake supper would look like. We decided it would be at 6pm with pancake meals to go (as per our usual these days). Despite being hit with a massive overnight storm and frigid temperatures, we held fast to our commitment and met last evening to prepare. Christ Church St. James took on the task of purchasing food and preparing hundreds of pancakes and sausages, we were given styrofoam containers to put them in, purchased little syrups and butters to add, made cutlery packages, and much more. For two hours we packaged meals, prepared sides, bagged everything, and prepared it all to go outside. We made 100 meals! What a gift of many efforts and hands.

When we went outside at 5:55pm, there were about 5 people in line. You can imagine our slight disappointment considering we had prepared little flyers and handed them out the week before to our community to remind them of our special dinner. However we got to work! We carried a chalk board sign up the street that said “FREE PANCAKE SUPPER!”. We walked up and down Queen Street a few feet each way inviting people to feast with us. Over the next 45 minutes as we stood shaking in our boots, only about 20 more people trickled along. Some were regulars who remembered we would be there, some were new faces that we invited as they walked by, and some neighbours. And you know what? We had the best time! We cheered everyone who came by, gave seconds, danced to keep warm, laughed, and talked from a safe distance. We all had to wear masks, we couldn’t sit and eat together as we long to do, and we had way less people come than we hoped. But we did our best, some amazing people helped make it happen, we saw some friends and made some new ones. I for one had a really great time. It was a feast, just as Shrove Tuesday is intended to be.

I have decided to participate in Lent this year for the first time in my life. Erinn always mentions that it is a time to either give something up that isn’t adding value, or to start doing something that will add value. I have decide to give up social media and Youtube for these next 40 days. These things add value to my life in many ways, however I have also noticed they are habits of endless content consumption that lately have led me down the road of comparison in motherhood and have been a thief of my joy. This Lenten season, I am going to let those things go and practice adding a different kind of value to my days. I will be spending quiet time in prayer, reading or listening to books or podcasts, colouring, writing and cleaning my space. I hope to call out in prayer more when I am struggling, sit and be rather than just keep busy, and do things that bring me joy as Meagan – not mom, wife, or daughter.

This has been a longer blog than intended maybe but thanks for sticking with me if you’re still here. It’s been a while since I’ve sat to write and it’s good sometimes to get it all out there, I think. I hope that next year we can sit and eat a pancake supper together – inside! I hope that whether you are practicing Lent or not, that you find ways to call out to God. I pray that you feel hope and gratitude this season before Easter when we remember the sacrifice that God made sending His beloved Son to die for us. And I pray that you find peace where you are.

Thanks for being here. Peace to you.

Meg

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 Week in the Life

I thought I would take you all on a little virtual journey, “a week in the life” if you will. Now that I have been back at work for a few months and the hectic swirl of the Christmas season has come and gone, I feel like I have my bearings enough. Going back to work after maternity leave was hard enough, let alone with a whole change in the way my work life looked as I knew it. I think I am finally settling into our “new normal” (anyone else hate that phrase now??) and would love to take you along.

There is some debate as to whether a week starts on a Sunday or a Monday. In my head, it’s a Monday. We meet up at our room in the basement of a church, what has been our HQ since the pandemic began and we needed a place to keep our stuff and prepare meals. We are so grateful to our community partners who have always been generous with space towards us and our folks. First step – check in. We sit together as a team and talk about how we are and we pray for each other. What a beautiful gift. After that, we get super busy. Opening bags, distributing snacks into said bags, and later on the frozen meals prepared by Second Harvest. About 90 bags are prepped, along with 10 warm meals. At 12:45, we are moving all the meals up and outside where our community is waiting in line 6ft apart. We give lunch to go at 1pm, and try to connect with people in line from a safe and masked distance. What a difference from our communal meals before Covid – they are missed!

The line.

Tuesday morning, we meet over WhatsApp video chat for our weekly staff meeting! We become 4 little squares on a phone – what times! I miss our coffee shop meetings at the cozy Rustic Cosmo. We discuss all things Dale, and end with a prayer. A beautiful way to start the day. The rest of the day includes admin work and fundraising – reaching out to all of those who make our work possible and partner with us in a variety of ways. We love connecting with you!

Staff meeting!

Wednesday is meal prep and outreach day. While I am home with Charlotte, the girls prep 45 or more breakfast sandwiches to go inside brown paper bags, along with a fruit or muffins and a juice box! After breakfast is ready, they hit the road either by foot or in our new van (name yet to be determined). Along Queen Street is where we frequent most, up and down the length of Parkdale chatting with our friends and some strangers. We usually bring socks, snacks, drinks, and winter gear to have practical items to give. But the main goal is to meet people where they are at and connect in a different space. Doing outreach is one of my favourite parts of my job, and a skill I am always working to be better at. It can be hard for a shy person like me!

Our new outreach van

Thursday we meet back at The Dale HQ in the morning and bring the pre-made breakfasts up and outside. They are given out again to our friends who respectfully form a line outside. We are so grateful that this has been very maintainable in terms of keeping everyone safe. While we miss sitting around a table, we are so glad to see our friends mask to mask and connect a couple times a week. After breakfast has been given, we usually disperse to do different forms of outreach. Whether that be going for another walk, having a meeting with each other, tidying up our room or storage unit, or dropping groceries to someone’s door there is never a shortage of things to do!

Breakfast before it’s made into sandwiches!

Friday is a day of rest – our Sabbath! We take this very seriously, and are glad for the ways we can each find a day or moment of rest as our home life rhythm allows.

Finally, we reach Sunday! Usually some combination of us collects the Second Harvest delivery in the morning. We get all 100 meals we need for Monday from SH; they are all safely cooked and packaged by volunteers. We also usually get fruit and snacks to give out throughout the week, and if we are really lucky – the eggs used to make breakfast! We have always been so grateful to partner with Second Harvest even before Covid times. We would have a hard time functioning without them! After this, we do a variety of things depending on the weather and COVID restrictions. All which have included an outside small church service sitting 6ft apart, or outreach around the neighbourhood.

We are always finding ways to stay true to who we are as an organization and community. Despite having to pivot multiple times a month, week, or day to meet Covid restrictions and stay safe, we are doing our best and only by and for the glory of God. We are grateful to all those who partner with us – we wouldn’t be The Dale without you.

Thanks for coming along in a week with me! I wish you could all be a fly on the wall of my week in real life and see how COOL my job is. But this will have to do! Peace to you this week as you go about your routines. I am grateful to have you in my life!


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